The Safety Net
Promoting Physical Activity
Many of us know how difficult it can be to lose weight. For some people, just getting started is the hardest step. For others, the most difficult aspect may be sticking to healthy eating and physical activity on a long-term basis. Oftentimes a person may be successful in losing weight only to find that it is regained later. Losing weight can be a slow process and a person may feel frustrated and simply give up trying.
There are different ways service providers can provide supports to consumers who are trying to lose weight. It is important to recognize that being overweight or obese can lead to serious medical problems. It should be noted, however, that losing just a small amount of weight, only 5 to 15% of total body weight, can significantly improve a person’s physical condition and reduce health risks. For this reason, even the smallest steps taken with respect to weight loss should be celebrated.
The Importance of Physical Activity
The relationship of physical activity with weight status is very clear. Simply put, the calories from the foods we eat provide energy. If the intake of calories does not match the calories used by our bodies, weight gain will occur. Conversely, to lose weight, more energy must be used than is taken in. Regular physical activity plays a key role in preventing overweight and obesity. An increase in physical activity during weight loss contributes to success and is most helpful in preventing weight regain. All too often with weight loss efforts, the emphasis is placed on controlling diet with less attention paid to the role of physical activity.
The relationship of physical activity to overall health is also evident. Being physically active reduces the risks of various medical conditions and diseases, especially heart disease. Physical activity helps control cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes plus it reduces the risks of certain cancers. People who are physically active feel better, have more energy, and have better muscle and bone strength.
Unfortunately, most adults are not physically active on a regular basis. This is particularly true with people who have developmental disabilities. As a general guide, most people should have a goal of being involved in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. Some consumers, however, may have physical limitations so that activities will need to be adapted and tailored accordingly. Clinical professionals can provide assistance with identifying safe and beneficial physical activities for people who may have limited mobility or physical limitations.
Many people do not like to routinely exercise. Physical activity does not have to be limited to exercises or even include “exercise”. While exercise is certainly beneficial, there are many different ways a person can be physically active without participating in a structured program.
Let’s Get Moving
Below are suggestions for service providers on how consumers can be supported to have a more physically active lifestyle. Please note that a consumer’s health care professional should be consulted before starting a physical activity program.