By Canada’s John Cardillo Premier Fitness Program Expert.

If you read a lead story on the front pages of major newspapers recently reporting that the death rate from cancer had substantially increased or that the mortality rate had risen for some other disease, you wouldn’t be surprised. But recently in most North American newspapers you will come across front-page stories on the issue of obesity (being overweight by more than 30 percent of ideal body weight) and characterized it as the new leading epidemic.

Some may have been surprised; however, I was not. It was reported that Canadians are less obese and overweight than Americans in studies that began in the early 1990s. Today, almost 30% of American adults are obese, compared to 23 per cent of Canadians (this difference is largely due to the fact that 9 per cent more of U.S. females are fat), while another 33 per cent of North Americans are considered overweight. These numbers have risen dramatically over the last 20 years and so has the incidence of serious health problems related to this increase in obesity.

Obesity is defined by using the Body Mass Index, which is determined by dividing a person’s weight in kg by his/her height in metres squared. (BMI=weight/m2). This measure of body fat is applicable to adult men and women. Individuals with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are classified as overweight. Those with a BMI of 30 are classified as obese. An example of an obese person is someone who is 5 feet tall and weighs 153 pounds, which equates to a BMI of 30. A person who is 5 feet tall and weighs 204 pounds would have a BMI of 40, which is considered extremely obese.

It has been the conclusion of many studies that obesity is more prevalent among developed countries, as opposed to undeveloped countries. In North America, approximately 30 per cent of the population is obese, while 40 per cent are considered overweight. There has been a large increase in obesity among young Canadians and Americans, and it was reported that 25% of seniors over 75 are obese. Older adults are spending less time on leisure time and physical activity than ever before. North American women also partake in less physical activity than men.

The cause of obesity has been linked to genetic and environmental factors. However, studies have shown that genetic factors are less likely to contribute to obesity, while the major cause has been linked to our environment. Over the past three decades, due to the technology revolution, North Americans have been continually exposed to an environment that promotes fast foods (high in fat – calorie-dense) and a sedentary lifestyle due to excessive TV, computer and electronic entertainment. This lifestyle diminishes the amount of physical activity needed to promote healthy living.

These statistics on obesity confirmed what I had concluded from my own experience. Being in the health and fitness industry formulating the John Cardillo Premier Fitness exercise programs, I have known that obesity and the number of people becoming overweight were on the rise. I am pleased that this obesity problem has finally been taken seriously by getting more public awareness and deemed an epidemic.

Of great concern to all of us is the effect that adult obesity is having on our nation’s children. In a report on child obesity by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) obesity among children was stated as becoming a public health problem, as the number of overweight children is increasing at an alarming rate due to poor eating habits and a lack of exercise. The report says that parents, schools and our government are failing to protect children from this growing health epidemic, and that the number of obese children has doubled in the last 20 years. A survey of Grade 6 students showed that 28 per cent consumed unhealthy candy, chocolate bars and junk food on a daily basis.

Obesity as it relates to the health risk to children can no longer be ignored. The medical and social implications of childhood obesity are severe, as evidenced by the presence of Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, low self esteem and depression. Doctors warn that we may be raising the first generation of children with a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

A misconception is that parents believe their children will outgrow obesity, but the facts do not support this view. Obese children will become obese adults. The OMA also suggests that schools return to mandatory structured physical education, and that all advertising related to junk food directed at kids be banned from schools.

Now that this problem has come to the forefront, I believe it’s a wake-up call to governments to increase spending taxpayers’ dollars to promote healthy lifestyles through more legislative programs and tax grants targeted to all ages, and for everyone in society to take some positive action to address this issue.

How could this be accomplished? Here are some suggestions that governments and businesses might consider.

The federal government increased the tax deduction for fitness club or recreational centre memberships, which would enable more families on budgets to enroll in fitness programs.

Tax deductibility for kids’ fitness programs should be increased to encourage parents to enroll their children in programs that promote physical activity in kids’ fitness programs, ranging from karate lessons to organized sports leagues (soccer, hockey, etc.).

At least one hour of physical activity every day should become mandatory at all levels of schooling, with physical education mandatory through grade 12.

Employers could be offered incentives or subsidies if they add an onsite fitness facility in their plants and offices for use by their employees.

Government should subsidize employers who implement wellness programs at work for their employees.

Employers could promote healthy living by educating employees on the benefits of exercise and proper nutrition through seminars in the workplace.

Since fast-food restaurants and the use of trans-fats have been identified as the main culprit that causes obesity, the government should introduce stricter laws that limit the amount of trans-fats that can be used to prepare their foods.

And last, but not least, the best step any person can take is to take part in a Premier Fitness exercise program and make fitness a regular part of their lives.

Author's Bio: 

Canada’s John Cardillo Premier Fitness Program Expert