Learning About Bariatrics and Obesity

Bariatrics is the study and treatment of obesity and those diseases associated with obesity. Diet, exercise, behavior modification, lifestyle changes, institutional and home medical equipment, medications and, in some cases, surgery are the tools used by bariatric physicians to help patients manage obesity.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is defined as an excessively high amount of body fat or adipose tissue in relation to lean body mass. The amount of body fat (or adiposity) includes concern for both the distribution of fat throughout the body and the size of the adipose tissue deposits. Body fat distribution can be estimated by skin fold measures, waist-to-hip circumference ratios, or techniques such as ultrasound computed tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging. 2

What is BMI?

Body Mass Index or BMI is a tool for indicating weight status in adults, representing weight levels associated with the lowest overall risk to health. It is a measure of weight for height. For adults over 20 years old, BMI falls into one of these categories: 3


  • Below 18.5 Underweight
  • 18.5 – 24.9 Normal
  • 25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
  • 30.0 – and above Obese

How Does BMI Relate To Health?

The BMI ranges are based on the effect body weight has on disease and death. As BMI increases, the risk for some disease increases. Some common conditions related to overweight and obesity include: 3

  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Premature Death
  • Some Cancers
  • Diabetes

Other Indicators of Health Risk.

BMI is just one of many factors related to developing a chronic disease (such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes). Other factors that may be important to look at when assessing your risk for chronic disease include: 4

  • Diet
  • Physical Activity
  • Waist Circumference
  • Blood Pressure
  • Blood Sugar Level
  • Cholesterol Level
  • Family History of Disease


2- CDC Nutrition and Physical Activity http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/defining.htm

3- CDC Nutrition and Physical Activity http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/bmi-adult.htm

4- CDC Nutrition and Physical Activity http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/bmi-means.htm

5- NIH Obesity Research, NIH Obesity Research Task Force Strategic Plan for NIH Obesity Research




Very large people face special challenges in trying to be active. They may not be able to bend or move in the same way that other people can. It may be hard for them to find clothes and equipment for exercising. They may feel self-conscious being physically active around other people.

Where To Begin?

• Start Slowly – The body needs time to get used to a new activity.

• Warm Up – Warm-ups gets the body ready for action. Warm up activities include shrugging shoulders, tapping feet, swinging arms and marching in place. Everyone should spend a few minutes warming up for any physical activity–even walking.

• Cool Down – Slow down little by little. Individuals should walk slowly or stretch for a few minutes to cool down. Cooling down may protect the heart, relax muscles, and keep individuals from getting hurt.

• Set Goals – Set short-term and long term goals. A short-term goal may be to walk 5 minutes on at least 3 days for 1 week. A long-term goal may be to walk 30 minutes on most days of the week by the end of 6 months.

• Get Support – Get a family member or friend to be physically active with the individual. It may be more fun, and less routine.

• Track Progress –  Individuals should keep a journal of their physical activity. People may not feel like they are making

progress but when looking back where the program started, individuals will be pleasantly surprised.

• Have Fun – Individuals should try different activities to find the ones they really enjoy.


What Activities Can An Obese Person Do?

Weight-Bearing Activities: Activities like walking and golfing, which involve lifting and pushing your own body weight.


Non-Weight-Bearing Activities

Activities like swimming and water workouts, which put less stress on the joints because individuals do not have to lift or push their own weight.


Lifestyle Activities

Activities like gardening, which do not have to be planned.6



Before starting any physical activity program, contact a medical professional.


6- NIH Publication No. 04–4352, May 2004–Article “Active at any Size”