Although most people know that maintaining a healthy weight is important for their overall health, actually achieving weight loss and being at a healthy weight are different issues. This is evident in a study from the American Psychological Association, which noted that being overweight or obese is the number one health challenge facing the United States today.

Despite the fact that 68 percent of Americans are currently considered overweight or obese, according to study data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this health problem can be reversed. Even a modest weight loss of five or 10 pounds can provide immediate and long-term health benefits.

It’s important to keep in mind that losing weight is not a race – whether you need to lose 20, 50 or even 100 pounds – and that the benefits of losing weight and being physically active go far beyond how you look in the mirror. It’s a lifelong process to become a healthier you – for yourself and your family.

As always, consult your health care provider before beginning any weight loss program.

Benefits

Reduces pressure on your joints.  A 2005 study in Arthritis & Rheumatism of overweight and obese adults with knee osteoarthritis found that losing one pound of weight resulted in four pounds of pressure being removed from the knees. In other words, losing just 10 pounds would relieve 40 pounds of pressure from your knees.

Eases pain and inflammation. The results of a 2010 study from the University of Paris published in the Annals of Rheumatic Disease indicated that weight loss can lessen pain, improve function and lower inflammation levels in the body. The authors of another study titled Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Knee Osteoarthritis noted that exercise, which aids in weight loss, can help manage and lessen the pain and symptoms of arthritis.

Cuts risk of chronic diseases. Data from the CDC-led Diabetes Prevention Program show that a moderate weight loss – around 14 pounds – can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Weight loss can also reduce the risk of developing diseases such as cancer and can help prevent and treat arthritis and related diseases.

Makes breathing easier. Rena Wing, PhD, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School and director of the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center at The Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., says that “Weight losses of just 10 percent of a person’s body weight (or about 20 pounds in those who weigh 200 pounds) have also been shown to have a long-term impact on sleep apnea …” Findings in a report from the American Heart Association noted that reducing obesity is the single, most changeable action that can be taken to prevent sleep apnea.

Lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown that losing weight can lower your blood pressure into the healthy range. In addition, eating right and engaging in physical activity that leads to weight loss can also lower your cholesterol. Data suggest that even a moderate weight loss of 5 to 10 pounds can help to reduce your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Overall

Weight loss is a tough endeavor, but no single action can provide as many positive effects on the body as weight loss. Its benefits for your body – helping you live longer, and pain and disease free – far outnumber the challenges you’ll meet as you work toward your weight loss goal. Talk to your health care provider about starting your weight loss program to gain lasting, better overall physical and mental health.