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Obesity is a global problem; however, relatively little attention is directed toward preparing and inspiring students of medicine and allied medical sciences to address this serious matter. Students are not routinely exposed to the assessment methods for obesity, its overall prevalence, causative factors, short- and long-term consequences, and its management by lifestyle modification. This physiology laboratory exercise involving students of medicine (n = 106) was developed to 1) introduce medical students to methods of obesity assessment and to differentiate between general and abdominal obesity, 2) generate an interest and sensitivity about obesity, and 3) stimulate thinking about modification of their lifestyle in relation to eating habits, weight control, and physical activity. Spinal shrinkage (the difference between the standing height of a person and his/her recumbent length) was used as an immediate observable parameter to demonstrate the effect of adiposity. Spinal shrinkage is recognized as an index of the compressive forces acting on the spine and is related to body mass index. A positive correlation (r = 0.365, P < 0.05) was observed between body mass index and spinal shrinkage. A questionnaire was used to assess student responses to this exercise. Students were motivated to engage in more physical activity (74%), adopt healthier eating (63%), and enhance their knowledge about obesity (67%). They expressed keen interest in the laboratory exercise and found the sessions enjoyable (91%). The laboratory exercise proved to be a success in motivating the students to actively learn and inquire about obesity and to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
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