“The obesity prevalence is still rising”
“Obesity is a growing health problem globally”
“More and more children are obese, and obese children become obese adults”.

Nowadays you see statements like these more and more often: we (and our children) are becoming heavier, that overweight and obesity are established risk factors for chronic metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, and that ‘something’ has to be done to make people healthier. This is our attempt.

On the 12th of August 2011, it all started with Guy Plasqui (Human Biologist), Gerjo Kok (Applied Psychologist) and Gill ten Hoor (something in between). In a brainstorm meeting, a white sheet of paper was soon filled with ideas of how we could contribute to a solution. We immediately agreed that obesity is a multidisciplinary problem, where a multidisciplinary approach was needed. Not long after that meeting, a team of biologists, health promotors, movement scientists, psychologists, and a youth health care expert was gathered. The “Focus on Strength’ was born.

As Focus on Strength team we did not attempt to solve obesity per se, but obesity-related health issues. From a biological perspective, we therefore wanted to stop focusing on losing body weight, and decided to concentrate on improvements in body composition (that is: the ratio of fat free mass and fat mass). From a psychological perspective we did not want to focus on what people have to do to become healthier, but on what they want to do. Our answer was: strength exercises. Although for now this answer – “strength exercises” – might seem to be too simple for the complex obesity problem, strength exercises might contribute to a solution on many levels. From a biological point of view, it is a fact that people with overweight or obesity are often stronger (in absolute sense) and better in (absolute) strength exercises compared with normal weight people. Under the right circumstances, people with overweight might notice that strength exercises are easier than aerobic exercises and that their performance is better than the performance of their normal weight counterparts. Using psychological principles from the Social Comparison theory and Self Determination Theory, improving overweight peoples’ feelings of competence could make them more motivated to engage in strength exercise and ultimately make them maintain a more active lifestyle. Additionally – and not unimportant- strength exercises promote a healthier body composition, having positive effects in combating the negative health consequences of obesity. Under Publications you can read more about the program idea and studies related to this project.