Now and then something crops up that reminds me to keep a sense of perspective on the way that we organise our lives and what we choose to spend our time on. While nearly seven thousand of us in and around Sutton Coldfield are planning our latest training regime and putting the finishing touches to preparations for the Great Midlands Fun Run, the rest of the country it seems, has got some way to go to establish even a basic lifestyle balance to keep fit and healthy.
What reminded me of this was a report published in the last few months from data agency Eurostat which has looked at European countries and found that, out of 19 countries, women in the UK have the highest level of obesity with nearly a quarter of all women (23.9%) being recorded as obese in the year 2008 to 2009. And our men, it would appear, are not far behind. Second only to Malta, just over 22% of men in the UK were classified as obese. A person is defined as obese if their body mass index (BMI), the result of a calculation involving weight and height, is above a certain level. The BMI correlates fairly well with body fat.
Our modern lifestyle is apparently to blame for the ever expanding waistlines on these shores. We have long been told that fat accumulates in the body when calories taken in as food exceed calories burned off by physical activity. In common with our cousins across the pond in North America we have been early adopters for the fast food – convenience food – processed food culture which offers a tasty quick meal fix but all too often contains excessive amounts of fat, salt, sugar and mega calories.
Maybe it is time for us to eat a little more humble pie and admit that traditional European culture has more value for us than the Hollywood lifestyle. This same survey showed that obesity levels in the homes of fine food, France and Italy, were a fraction of that in the UK. The rates for women and men in France were a modest 12% and 11% respectively. In the unlikely event that the French eat as unhealthily as we do then to achieve these figures they must be doing up to twice as much exercise as us. Either way it looks bad for the Olympics!