Written by Emily Hatch, CSCS
Obesity is a well-known issue within our society that has become even more pronounced during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our commutes to work are often through the kitchen, we have more access to food, and when boredom sets in, we often turn to snacking. Obesity, which “is a term that reflects excess adipose tissue,” affects around 30.4% of U.S. adults and 18% of children (Jacobs, 2018, p110). Even more, adults with disabilities have a disproportionately higher rate of obesity (36%) and 22% of children with disabilities are affected by obesity (CDC.com).
According to the CDC, “adults with excess weight are at even greater risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Not only is obesity linked to an impaired immune system, but it “decreases lung capacity and reserve and can make ventilation more difficult” (CDC.com). Even more, 30.2% “of [the] hospitalizations were attributed to obesity,” which further shows the duty we, as trainers and societal members, must address this issue and slow the curve of COVID-19 (CDC.com).
Simply put, obesity occurs when the “intake [of calories] exceeds expenditure over an extended period of time” (Jacobs, 2018, p.110). This excess intake may lead to “subclinical inflammation, vascular and metabolic dysfunction, and hormonal irregularities” (Jacobs, 2018, p. 110). Those who are obese may even experience a leptin resistance, which is “a protein produced in fat cells” that tells us we are full (Jacobs, 2018, p.111). So, what are some things we can do to encourage movement, create easier access to healthy foods and prevent further individuals from becoming compromised?
For many adults and children, habit formation is critical to develop healthy eating patterns and exercise regimens. However, within the population we serve, those with developmental disabilities, combating poor food habits and exercise routines can be challenging and often requires a support system. In our experience, we have come across many clients who experience food sensitivities, are on medications that make weight loss challenging, may experience a lack of resources to healthy foods or may suffer from pain that discourages movement. We also have those who are thoroughly into video games, which increases both screen time and sitting time. We acknowledge these challenges but also have some great techniques for both clients and trainers to encourage movement and healthy lifestyle changes!
In my training experience, I have had the pleasure of working with many clients and families who are motivated to make lifestyle changes. And although not everyone has that support, we, as a training community, need to encourage individuals, as well as community members, to promote healthier food choices and lifestyle choices from an early age. The CDC also recommends community engagement within schools, hospitals, and childcare environments where we can teach healthy choices. Working on “neighborhood design, access to healthy, affordable foods and beverages, and access to safe and convenient places for physical activity” is also an essential step for our society to combat the negative effects of poor lifestyle choices, which can lead to obesity (CDC.com). However, as best we can, it is our duty as trainers to continue to fight for healthier lifestyles, create positive exercise environments and develop positive relationships for the prevention of a continued obesity pandemic.
Jacobs, Patrick L. (2018). Nsca’s essentials of training special populations. Library of Congress Cataloging-
About the Author
Ryan Lockard, CSCS*D, CSPS*D is the Founder and CEO of Specialty Athletic Training. He is accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Certified Special Populations Specialist. Lockard is a member of the board of directors for the Autism Society of America and the advisory board for the NSCA Oregon chapter.