Robyn Stuhr is the sports medicine program director at UC San Diego Health System’s department of orthopaedic surgery. She also serves as an American Council on Exercise (ACE) subject-matter expert and media spokesperson. Her previous experience includes positions as executive vice president of ACE and as administrative director and exercise physiologist at the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

ACE: In your role as a clinical exercise physiologist who specializes in women’s issues, what would you say is the biggest challenge we face in overcoming the obesity epidemic?

Robyn Stuhr: Women often find themselves in the middle of a culture where inactive lifestyles, convenient food choices and high stress levels are the norm. They are tasked with caring for children and significant others, managing stressful schedules and struggling to meet financial obligations. As a result, they have less time for physical activity, even if they are inclined to do it; they rush to serve family meals, often choosing foods that are convenient, processed or fast; and they have high levels of anxiety or depression, which can lead to emotional eating.

ACE: In your day-to-day life, how do you see the impact of the obesity epidemic in patients, friends or people you pass on the street?

Robyn Stuhr: Working in the UC San Diego Health System’s department of orthopaedic surgery, I’m particularly aware of the mobility issues associated with obesity. I’ve seen a rising number of obese and overweight individuals with knee and hip osteoarthritis, which often leads to joint replacement surgery. Those patients often have more surgical complications, longer surgeries and more difficult recoveries.

ACE: How—and in what ways—do you feel corporations and the allied health and fitness industries can partner to help reverse that epidemic?

Robyn Stuhr: Businesses and community organizations can support people in making healthy lifestyle choices by creating environments that make it easier and more convenient to select those healthy choices. That could mean encouraging physical activity with standing desks, showers for ride- or walk-to-work programs, or walking meetings; or it could mean promoting healthful eating with nutritious lunches, access to farmers’ markets and a corporate culture of healthy snacks.

ACE: What do you feel is the best way to reach individuals who need to lose weight?

Robyn Stuhr: According to renowned epidemiologist Dr. Steven Blair, PED, FACSM, “we should stop trying to make fat people thin, but instead make fat people fit.” There is scientific evidence that morbidity and mortality rates significantly improve when overweight individuals increase their cardiovascular fitness and strength, with or without weight loss. We should educate obese clients about the non-weight-related benefits of physical activity and provide a supportive and judgment-free environment where they can move and explore their physical potential.

Editor’s Note: Bridging the Gap is a series of interviews conducted by American Council on Exercise (ACE) with professionals throughout the fitness and allied health industries, as well as our partners in the corporate world. ACE hopes this column will start a conversation among those entities about the impact of the obesity epidemic and how we can all work together to eliminate it by 2035.