In Part 1 of our series, we talked about why the individual with overweight or obesity is constantly held personally responsible for their situation -even though obesity is a geneticly and hormonally controlled disease and not a of lack of character, or poor personal lifestyle choice. If you missed the part 1, you’ll find it here. In short: genes sensitive to obesity are the prerequisite for developing obesity, our community environment determines how many of those with sensitive genes then develop the disease.
If our increasing problems with obesity in society are not the fault of the individual, but the result of how we created our society – who or what is it that contributes to this? We’re going to start unraveling that now, starting with how we get around in everyday life:
Transport from A to B
When I went to school in the ’70s and ’80s, 90% of the pupils walked or bicycled to our school. Nothing strange about that. These daily movements burned perhaps 300-600 kcal per day. Spread over 38 school weeks of 5 days, it was actually 57,000 – 114,000 kcal in a year – just this little everyday routine. Kids don’t really do this today, do they?
We don’t see the road to school as really safe anymore – so schoolchildren today are increasingly being given a ride by mom and dad. Safer -yes maybe -but thereby you miss the 300-600 kcal listed above. If we add that during breaks or leisure time you don’t automatically play football, climb around at the playground or chase each other in general – we’ve invented smartphones and tablets with games and social media in it – then we’re starting to have a very passive everyday life for our children.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden and Generation Pep presented data on the subject at Almedalen Week last year: obesity prevalnece today is 20% among children in Sweden, the proportion of children cycling to school has halved since 1990 -while average caloric intake has increased by 200 kcal per day (!).
On to youth and adulthood. The same phenomenon can be found here, but in partly different guises: what was before natural was to walk -run if you were in a hurry! Or cycle distances in everyday life of 500 meters to a kilometre or two has today been given the trend term “microtransport”. The technology behind it is efficient rechargeable batteries that power Hoverboards, Segways, electric skateboards, electric mopeds, electric scooters and e-bikes – the latter, as you know, even had government subsidies until very recently(!). What they all have in common, of course, is that they are new, cool, easy to get around with, often have quite impressive both maximum speed and range -but you burn zero or minimal calories.
“Riding is easy and fun. It’s easier than learning how to ride a bike, and more fun than walking on tiny feet… Get the App”
The quote is borrowed from one of the most common electric scooter companies, many of you see these every day in our cities. Their slogan is ‘catchy’ isn’t it? ‘Tiny feet’ suggests that you can probably try it at early ages..?
Any of you who have continued (like me) to be childish enough to like animated movies? Remember humanity in Pixar’s (amazing but dystopian) Wall-E? If not, check the clip here,you’ll soon understand where I’m going with this.
What should we do to combat overweight and obesity?
Society itself must do more. There are very good examples of organised projects, such as the “walking school bus” in France where children are accompanied to and from school, or here at home by the fantastic work that is already taking place in Friskvårdsgruppen Halland – read more here!
But otherwise, we probably can’t expect smartphones, tablets or electric small vehicles to disappear -of course they won’t. They’re great -sometimes!
But they have physical inactivity – and therefore the risk of weight gain – as an obvious side effect. We need to understand that. We need to make our children understand that. Just because something exists, and can be used, doesn’t mean we have to do it all the time, does it? Next time – take a walk from A to B instead, all changes start there, with the first step you take.
In the next part,we knock on the door of probably the biggest culprit in our obesity epidemic – the food industry. Follow us!