Saturday 14 February 2015

Inactivity and obesity

There was a surprisingly sensible article about obesity on the BBC website this week.

We are used to seeing reports warning of an "obesity time-bomb". But the extent of the problem is often exaggerated.

Figures for 2010-11, from the National Child Measurement Programme, suggest 9% of five- to six-year-olds are obese.

That equates to 2.7 children in each class of 30. In 1990, it was 1.5.

Does a 20-year increase of just over one child per class seem like an epidemic?

That's a good question.

Dietary advice changes almost continually: eat less fat, ban junk food, tax fizzy-pop.

The Local Government Association has proposed a tax on "unhealthy" foods to enable local authorities to help overweight and obese children.

But are we missing the point?

Yes. Yes we are. We are overlooking the fact that calorie consumption, including from sugars, has been declining for many years, but so too has physical activity.

Arguably, inactivity is a better predictor of ill health than obesity.

Figures from the Physical Activity Statistics 2015 - British Heart Foundation (BHF) published this January show less than a fifth of children say they move enough - a figure that's still falling.

Shockingly, the BHF's own direct assessment of activity, using accelerometers, showed that none of the 11- to 15-year-old girls and only 7% of boys they measured actually did enough exercise.

Indeed. And many other measures show a decline in physical activity, both at work and at home.

Read The Fat Lie (PDF) for more. One day the message might get through.

1 comment:

Christopher Snowdon said...

Thanks for an interesting read. The data mirrors what is happening in my own country as well, although the government "health" orgs are still in blame mode, blaming foods and drinks, but also blaming people for not being active enough.

I think there is one factor that has been left out, and that is the cost of activity. In the suburb I used to live in, (before I moved away from the city), unless you could afford to participate in organised sport, (pay for equipment, pay for hire of facilities, pay for transport costs, and pay for membership fees to clubs etc), you didn't play sport. There has been a move to make what used to be publicly owned, and free to use facilities, to privately owned facilities that those who cannot pay, are locked out of. Gone are the days where kids and adults could go down to the local footy oval and kick a ball around, or go and play a bit of tennis or cricket.

Even school play grounds, in public schools, are now no go areas after school hours and during holidays. This was not the case only a decade or so ago. Schools yards used to be open, now they are fenced in with barbed wire fences.

There are less and less areas where people can enjoy walking and playing with their dogs now, as more and more restrictions are fences go up.

In Australia you cannot ride a bicycle without a bit of foam and plastic strapped to your head, (you are liable for a fine if you don't where this helmet), many people object to this so have stopped cycling.

I now live in a country area, where there is still a lot of places to enjoy for free, but the paranoia and exploitation of free spaces by those that see these spaces as a money making proposition, is starting to creep in.

So where does this leave those who are not able to afford gym fees, or club memberships, or the cost of travelling to and paying to use sports facilities etc? It leaves them with far fewer options.

It is very obvious in my country that the more money you have, the slimmer and more active you will be. (until we get to the billionaire level, where they seems obesity is a pre-requisite).

The government and the greedy, want to remove all options for enjoyable activity from the people, (particularly the poorer people), and make them "user pays" spaces, then blame them for not being active enough, or eating crap food because it is all they can afford.

When all pleasures in life are gone because of restrictions and prohibitions, or too expensive that only the wealthy can afford them, what will the "others" do?