APTA Responds to The New York Times Article on Brown Fat Research

April 13, 2009

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the April 9 article by Gina Kolata, "Calorie-Burning Fat? Studies Say You Have It."

Recently-published research findings about the presence of brown adipose tissue (brown fat), in adults may be leading some to believe that health is just a weight loss pill away.

While I cannot deny brown fat's ability to consume calories and thus aid weight loss, a lifestyle change that includes routine fitness training, rather than body weight alone, is needed for health. One cannot achieve fitness from opening the medicine cabinet.

Fitness, from a physical therapist's perspective, is a dynamic physical state.  It involves cardiovascular/pulmonary endurance; muscle strength, power, flexibility, relaxation, and body composition that allows the individual to perform daily and leisure activities at an optimal level.

Some studies show that a person who is overweight or obese and is relatively fit is healthier than someone of normal weight who is unfit. As a physical therapist educator/researcher who has reported to students about brown fat for years, this finding might lead to the possibility of weight loss, but increasing physical activity (walking briskly for 5 days a week, 30 minutes each day) can lead to much more - reducing the chance of diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, gall bladder removal – even without weight loss!

Someone's best chance for developing a safe, appropriate exercise program for fitness lies with a physical therapist.  It is possible in almost every state to visit a physical therapist directly, without the referral of a physician. To learn more about physical therapy and to find a physical therapist in your area, please visit www.moveforwardpt.com.

Yours sincerely,

Steven H. Tepper, PT, PhD
Professor, University of Delaware, University of Maryland, George Washington University
Coordinator, tDPT Program at University of Montana

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