Most people know that reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is essential to their overall health. However, many don’t realize that shedding excess pounds has immediate and quantifiable benefits.
For example, losing weight can improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels and prevent prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. It can also improve snoring and chronic fatigue and boost energy levels.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Overweight individuals are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure and cholesterol, which can increase the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke. By shedding excess weight, people can significantly improve their cardiovascular health and decrease these risks.
Additionally, the weight loss can reduce their risk of metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increases the likelihood of developing heart disease and diabetes. These include an unhealthy blood sugar and cholesterol level, obesity, high blood pressure and abnormal fat distribution around the waist.
A study published in the journal Circulation analyzed the results of 124 clinical trials involving over 50,000 participants. Researchers found that those who lost more than 10% of their body weight experienced improved cardiovascular and metabolic health markers, including lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. They also had a lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes and were less likely to die from heart disease or stroke. In addition, these improvements lasted even after some of the weight was regained.
Enhanced Metabolic Function
Metabolic function is the process by which your body converts nutrients into fuel to power your daily activities. It includes your basal metabolic rate, which determines how many calories your body burns at rest and is determined by the composition of your body, sex, age, physical activity level, and health conditions.
Individuals who are overweight or obese typically have lower basal metabolic rates. This is due to a combination of factors, including the body’s efforts to preserve energy and nutrient stores, slowed growth processes in children and infants, a slower metabolism during sleep, a loss of lean muscle mass through dieting or crash diets, as well as medications or illnesses.
Fortunately, there are many ways to improve and support your metabolic functions to help facilitate weight loss and promote sustainable healthy habits. The most effective approach is to focus on a healthy lifestyle, which encompasses various interconnected elements, such as:
Joint Pain Relief
Taking extra weight off your body eases pressure on joints and relieves chronic aches and pains. It also helps prevent the progression of arthritis.
Studies show that being overweight increases the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis (OA). The cartilage “cushion” in a joint degrades with age, leading to bones rubbing against each other and causing pain and inflammation. Obesity speeds up the onset of OA and makes it worse once it develops.
Fat is active tissue that produces and releases pro-inflammatory chemicals into the body. By lowering body fat levels, you decrease chronic, low-grade inflammation that contributes to painful autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
For every pound lost, you reduce the load on knees by 4 pounds, which can make a significant difference for people with OA. Losing weight and participating in regular physical activity can also improve posture, flexibility and balance, which help alleviate OA symptoms. If you are struggling with OA, talk to your doctor about exercise options that will be safe for you. They may recommend walking, swimming or water exercises that are low impact.
Better Sleep Quality
Obesity can interfere with the normal sleep/wake cycle and cause poor quality sleep. Losing weight can reset your sleep cycles and improve the quality of your sleep. Sleep is also essential for a healthy metabolism. People who get adequate sleep tend to make better food choices. Sleep deprivation disrupts the balance of hunger-related neurotransmitters and causes increased ghrelin levels and decreased leptin levels. This can lead to overeating and ignoring cues that your stomach is full.
People who get enough sleep have a lower risk of developing metabolic disorders, such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia and cancers. Studies have found that fat stored around the abdomen, known as visceral fat, is associated with poor sleep. Losing excess belly fat can help improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of these health conditions.
In one study, participants who got 8.5 hours of sleep per night lost more non-fat mass and less body fat than those who slept 5.5 hours per night during a moderate calorie restriction diet. This may be due to improved glucose regulation and increased metabolic hormone production during sleep.
Increased Energy Levels
As you lose weight, your body uses less energy to move and your respiratory function improves. Being at a healthy weight also boosts your immune system, lowering the impact of colds and infections.
Shedding excess weight can help prevent sleep apnea, which can interfere with your ability to get a good night’s rest. This in turn will give you more energy throughout the day. Plus, some research suggests that excess weight can affect certain hormones in the blood that reduce libido, so losing weight may increase your sex drive. Shedding excess weight can also improve breathing problems such as obstructive sleep apnea.
Mood and Mental Well-being
People often lose weight for aesthetic reasons, such as fitting into a wedding dress or managing back pain, but the effects of losing just 5% of one’s body weight are more than skin deep. For those who want to boost their moods, get better sleep, improve their immune system, and more, the benefits of weight loss are clear.
For instance, obesity causes high levels of cortisol to be released in the body, resulting in anxiety and depression. Shedding pounds reduces this stress and allows the brain to release feel-good hormones that improve moods and make life more enjoyable.
Boosting the immune system also lowers the risk of getting colds and infections, while improved mobility means that going up and down stairs or sitting for long periods is easier than before. And fewer pounds reduces the amount of pressure placed on joints, easing the pain of arthritis. People also have more energy, which can make work and everyday activities more satisfying. This can be a real confidence booster for those who have been struggling with self-esteem issues.
Lowered Risk of Chronic Diseases
Over time, weight loss can help to reduce your risk of developing many serious chronic diseases. Studies have shown that four healthy lifestyle factors – never smoking, eating a healthy diet, getting sufficient exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight – are associated with as much as an 80 percent reduction in the likelihood of developing the most common and deadly chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Excess weight leads to inflammation of blood vessels, which can cause the build-up of plaque and increase the risk of having a stroke or heart attack. In addition, fat cells produce inflammatory substances that can trigger cancer growth, and excess weight contributes to the development of metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increases the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Luckily, most of these health conditions are preventable. The key is to make a few simple changes in your diet and daily habits, such as drinking plenty of water – which fills you up, hydrates your skin, improves digestion, eliminates toxins faster, improves your mood and helps with weight loss.
Many people who are overweight are aware that they should lose weight to improve their health and wellness. However, it often seems challenging to change habits and find the time to exercise. Fortunately, even losing a modest amount of weight has immediate positive effects on the body and can significantly reduce the risk for various conditions and diseases. In addition, a healthier diet helps prevent overeating and promotes healthy eating habits. So, don’t wait any longer to start shedding those extra pounds!