Obesity and Exercise

We're here to help!

This week marks the start of National Obesity Awareness Week (10-16th January). As we all continue to adjust our belts after a month of festive indulgence, ushering in and celebrating a week of ‘obesity awareness’ feels a bit harsh and somewhat cruel.

But then, there are the facts. Obesity is one of the greatest long-term health challenges facing the UK today. According to a 2020 policy paper published by the Department of Health & Social Care, approximately two-thirds (63%) of adults in the UK are above a healthy weight, and of these, half are obese. The paper goes on to state that one in three children in the UK leave primary school being overweight or are living with obesity. Sobering figures.

And wait (weight???), there’s more. Obesity is associated with a reduced life expectancy. It is a risk factor for a range of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and at least 12 kinds of cancer as well as liver and respiratory disease. Obesity can also have an impact on mental health.

Okay, okay. We hear you. This isn’t fun. But remember, we’re here to help. So, let’s start at the beginning - how obesity is measured.

The most widely used method to check if you're a healthy weight is body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of whether you're a healthy weight for your height. You can use the NHS BMI healthy weight calculator to work out your score.

For most adults, a BMI of:

  • 5 to 24.9 means you're a healthy weight
  • 25 to 29.9 means you're overweight
  • 30 to 39.9 means you're obese
  • 40 or above means you're severely obese

Now, the NHS warns that they do not use BMI to diagnose obesity because people who are very muscular can have a high BMI without much fat. You need to think of your BMI as a guideline for whether or not you’re a healthy weight.

The NHS states that a better measure of excess fat is waist size. Generally, men with a waist size of 94cm or more and women with a waist size of 80cm or more are more likely to develop obesity-related health problems.

So, if it looks like you’re tipping high on the scales and you have a waist measurement to match – what next?

Well, that’s where the National Obesity Awareness Week steps in, trying to encourage adults across the nation to lose excess weight, eat more healthily and get active as we begin the new year.

The NHS tells us that the best way to treat obesity is to eat a healthy, reduced-calorie diet and exercise regularly.

‘Reduced-calorie’ translates to consuming no more than 1,900 calories a day for most men, and no more than 1,400 calories a day for most women. The easiest and fastest way to reduce calories is to swap unhealthy and high-energy food choices – such as fast food, processed food and sugary drinks (including alcohol) – for healthier choices and choose low-fat, low-sugar, wholemeal and plant-based wherever possible.

Next up, obesity exercise. The Chief Medical Officers recommend that adults should do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week – for example, 5 sessions of 30-minute exercise a week. Remember, that’s the goal. We appreciate that you may feel as though you’re unfit, or a complete beginner and don’t know where to start. But something is better than nothing and doing just 10 minutes of exercise at a time is beneficial.

And, we’re here to help! Whether you need workouts for obese beginners or new and creative ways to exercise for those who are overweight and unfit – we can help you. If you haven’t exercised before, you might want to speak with your GP before starting and you should always start slowly, building up week by week. Setting realistic goals and tracking your daily activity will quickly demonstrate gains and improvements, which, has the additional benefit of helping to keep you motivated.

Swimming is a gentle, easy place to start and, many of our centres have fitness swimming sessions as well as fun sessions to enjoy (remember every ‘move’ of activity counts towards your 30-minutes!) We also have group workout classes for all levels of ability – you could start with yoga for gentle stretching and movement.

Don’t fancy swimming or group classes? We have the gym! All our Premium memberships include unlimited gym use and all our memberships, including our Pay as you Move, Places Membership include ongoing support and advice from our fitness team. We can get you started with a gym introduction with a member of our team who will take you through safe and effective use of all the equipment and help you build a digital programme to suit your goals.

If you have a medical condition that requires specialist fitness support, we will always endeavour to provide this. If, however, it is not possible for us to provide support at the centre you’ve selected for the activity, you will still be able to use the facilities by following and adhering to the advice below:

  • Know your limits – do not overexert yourself
  • Don’t exercise when you are unwell
  • Ensure you have taken any prescribed medication in accordance with your medical professional’s advice
  • Stay hydrated – take time to rest and drink during activity sessions
  • Eat a snack or small meal 2-3 hours before exercising

None of this is easy. We get it. But, think long and hard about the benefits. Achieving a healthy weight can have a lasting impact on your health. Key benefits include:

  • Decreased risk of common cancers (colon, liver, pancreas, kidney)
  • Lowered risk of increased blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Less risk of developing diabetes
  • Less strain from chronic back & joint pain
  • Decreased risk of being hospitalised or becoming seriously ill with COVID-19

So, what are you waiting for? It’s never too late to start to improve your health, and the benefits are almost incalculable. You can’t put a price on living a long and healthy life – one with less disease, less pain and less risk of being hospitalised. Plus, we’re here to help you every step of the way on your journey.

Find out what your local Place has to offer using our centre finder.

For more information about our current memberships and to find out what’s right for you, take a look at our Membership page.

You may simply want to talk through your options with our team; you can book a tour and a chat about the facilities available through our site timetables.

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