May 6, 2009
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.
Steven H. Tepper, PT, PhD
Professor, University of Delaware, University of Maryland, George Washington University
Coordinator, tDPT Program at University of Montana