Physical Injury as a Contributor to Weight Gain

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By Dr Karen Coates

Healthy aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of most life style diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. But more of a good thing is not necessarily better.

Excessive and prolonged cardiovascular activity can be, in itself, a long term stress on the body. I see the effects of this in some cases with our elite athletes who push their bodies to the extreme in pursuit of their life’s goal, whether that be a world record in their chosen sport or selection to our national sporting teams. In this group of genetically blessed individuals who push their bodies to the extreme we see increased risks of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and physical injuries. Female athletes will also disrupt the menstrual cycle which can have consequences for fertility and bone health.

For the average active person moderate and balanced exercise is a healthy part of a weekly routine. BUT if aerobic exercise is pushed beyond common sense there is a potential cascade of health problems.

Those who exercise to the extreme will have a constant trigger for the stress hormone cortisol. One of the consequences of high levels of circulating cortisol is a lowering of basal metabolism. No problem if the physical activity continues to burn up the calories but injury will often result in inactivity and a blow out in body weight for some. A movement plan supervised by a physiotherapist or trainer can keep activity going by working around the injured part.

If pain is a feature of the injury, as with most lower back or neck injuries, the pain becomes a flow-on stress to the body and can further inhibit basal metabolism with inactivity combining with increasing cortisol levels. Of course the consequences of this is weight gain, often hard to shift even when activities are resumed after rehabilitation.

Adequate pain management and sensible movement programs can overcome this obstacle to help maintain ideal body weight as we age.

Be aware that women are most vulnerable to cortisol induced weight gain as they age. Stressed younger women will be adrenalin driven. (This hormone has its own unique challenges.)

Our weight loss program provides detailed and individualized movement advice designed by our physiotherapist (a former university lecturer in health science) and our highly qualified medical team.