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My 14-year old daughter was just diagnosed with heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Like her parents, she is severely overweight and doesn’t move much. Our family doctor lectures us at our annual check-ups about the importance of making lifestyle changes, but we just can’t get motivated. Any ideas? — Louise (Gladstone)

Your honesty and willingness to seek help for your family’s health are admirable. The first step in making a change is recognizing your current mindset because it will dictate where to start. In other words, your attitude will be the main determinant of success.

One-third of elementary school children in the United States are overweight or obese. Consequently, obese children are now being diagnosed with historically “adult” diseases (e.g., diabetes, heart disease) as young as 8 years old.

This is a serious problem that warrants serious effort from parents and health care providers if we are going to reverse this scary trend. Most people are unmotivated to exercise because they perceive it as uncomfortable, don’t appreciate its importance or simply know how to do it properly. This may be why many people use the excuse “I don’t have time” because if they understood exercise’s importance and how to do it properly, the initial fear could be overcome. Plus, it doesn’t take much time (five to seven hours per week) to help you feel healthier and treat/prevent diseases, live longer and even increase earning potential by limiting sick days.

To get you started, let’s talk about the “Four Ws” of exercise: Why, when, where and what.

Why: My top three reasons for you and your family to exercise: you’ll be able to do activities you want, look and feel better, and help your daughter treat heart disease and diabetes. Personally, I’m motivated to exercise in order to be a responsible father because it helps me keep up with my son.

When: This sets the stage for developing a daily exercise habit. Waking up and not knowing when you’re going to exercise is almost the same thing as planning not to do it at all. How many times have you said you were going to do something and procrastinated to the point it doesn’t get done?

Where: You need a convenient place to exercise that you will maintain for the long term. If you despise health clubs, don’t join one. Setting up a simple home gym, such as an adjustable bench and dumbbells, is a good option and allows for hundreds of different exercises to stave off boredom. The only downside is understanding how to use the equipment.

What: Getting professional guidance to provide a safe, effective program is difficult, as most medical schools and physical therapy schools don’t teach how to effectively prescribe exercise. But if you can find a licensed physical therapist in your area with advanced exercise training for credible guidance, you can also get it covered by health insurance. Medicare and other insurers now recognize the need for exercise therapy and cover associated PT services in the treatment of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Be sure you start slowly so you don’t get hurt or discouraged.

But start now.

Colin Hoobler is a licensed physical therapist, hosts a live health segment on KGW Channel 8 and has written two books on exercise as treatment for disease and injury

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