Losing weight is hard for anyone, but for 78.6 million obese people in America, it’s especially difficult. Following a regimented diet of clean eating is only part of the equation. Exercise is the key to creating a physically, mentally, and emotionally healthier body. However, some of the moves may be too painful or nearly impossible for those carrying extra weight. Fortunately for many, small steps can lead to achieving large goals with rewarding long-term weight loss and health benefits.

There’s a new generation of overweight and obese adults on their way, which is why childhood nutrition and exercise intervention needs to be implemented as soon as a weight problem is identified. In the last 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents, making it a public health epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An obese person’s medical costs are nearly $1,500 higher than those with a normal body mass index (BMI), and that’s not counting the long-term future costs of children who grow up to develop type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

By committing to a tailored exercise and diet plan developed by you and your doctor, anyone with life-threatening excess weight can make great strides with their health. The American Heart Association stands by the Mediterranean diet as a reliable go-to for recipes and parameters to balance protein, carbohydrates, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Knowing how many calories you should be eating and drinking a day can help you maintain or lose weight, while making sure it coincides with how many calories you’re burning each day. The AHA also advises at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity for most or all days of the week.