Employee health: Why is obesity is so hard to tackle?

Not a week goes by without stories, research papers and studies that come into HP Towers around employee obesity. Some of them can be spurious and then, some articles are genuinely jaw-dropping.  Two articles left us staggered this week …

A study released in The Lancet this week looked at the the eating behaviours of nearly 4.5 billion people in 187 countries found a steadily rising popularity of the “Western diet” – which is dominated by highly caloric, processed foods and sugary drinks – in many parts of the world over the past few decades.

The wealthiest regions like Northern America, Western Europe and Australia have the lowest-quality nutrition standards despite significant efforts to better educate their populations about diet and health matters.  Global progress in the fight against obesity and nutrition and lifestyle-related illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and cancer has been “unacceptably slow.”

Indeed, despite isolated areas of improvement, no country to date has reversed its obesity epidemic.  Quoting from the report directly, “”Today’s food environments exploit people’s biological, psychological, social, and economic vulnerabilities, making it easier for them to eat unhealthy foods. This reinforces preferences and demands for foods of poor nutritional quality, furthering the unhealthy food environments.” 

The report from The Lancet is vast and its conclusions are multi-faceted.  In short, it appears that many Western Countries have a long way to go in order to reverse the obesity epidemic.

Which leads us nicely onto a story that has come from the Health Department in Finland who have a new initiative at tackling obesity. Finns are being urged to occasionally eat their meals standing up in a bid to combat health problems linked to a sedentary lifestyle.

Studies cited in the publication show that adult Finns sit, lie down or stand still for more than three-quarters of their time awake. Among those who sit more than seven hours a day, every additional hour spent sitting down increases the risk of death by 5%. It noted that getting off public transport a stop early and walking an extra 300 metres twice a day would amount to about 150 kilometres in a year!

Healthy Performance have frequently reported that excessive sitting is associated with musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Our Get Active Campaigns are designed to educate and encourage employees to become more active and stave off obesity. The sessions are ideal for employees wanting to get active, but don’t know where to start. We cover various suggestions for getting active, staying active, and most importantly how to monitor improvements with weight.  Please call one of the HP Team on 01295 230120 for further details.