Obesity: An expanding epidemic weighing heavily on society

Statistics show obesity levels to have more than doubled in the last twenty years, with more than 1.9 billion people over the age of 18 considered overweight, with 600 million of these obese. This has placed a significant strain on our already growing burden of disease and stretched healthcare system.

Over recent years society has grown in many ways, shapes and forms. While in a number of ways this has been beneficial, it has also resulted in many of us sitting not only longer, but also more frequently throughout the day. Add to this the shift towards a more highly processed diet, longer daily work commutes and more time spent in the workplace, it’s no wonder the average waistline continues to expand at an alarming rate.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines obesity as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health” with weight gain the result of an imbalance between energy consumption and energy expenditure. In other words, eating more than is needed to fuel our bodies. Classification of obesity is often measured by calculating ones body mass index or BMI, however a more accurate measure is often ones waist circumference, which also assists with determining an individuals risk of chronic disease.

Australia’s Health Findings from an Australian Department of Health survey found that:

  • Nearly 70% of Australian Adults are classified as sedentary or obtaining only low levels of physical activity on a daily basis.
  • Less than one in three children adhered to recommendations to spend less than two hours per day using electronic media.


Why is obesity a concern? Being overweight or obese significantly increases your risk of developing a number of preventable diseases including:


  • Cardiovascular disease (disease of the heart and blood vessels).
  • Metabolic syndrome or “Syndrome X” characterised by the diagnosis of three or more conditions including insulin resistance, central adiposity, high blood pressure or elevations in cholesterol
  • Type II Diabetes, poorly controlled diabetes or diabetic complications.
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and infertility
  • Those who are pregnant have an increased risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, issues during labor and potential miscarriage
  • Carrying increased weight also places additional strain on our muscles and joints that can lead to aches, pains and osteoarthritis particularly in weight bearing joints such as your back, hips and knees


Benefits of reducing your weight?


  • Reduced risk of chronic disease such as Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and stroke
  • Healthy bones and joints, reduced risk of osteoarthritis,
  • Improved energy levels
  • Reduced chance premature mortality
  • Reduced risk depression or other mental health concerns
  • Improved mobility
  • Reduced reliance on certain medications including those for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of certain forms of cancer including breast and prostate


How can I reduce my waist?


Seek assistance from an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP). They are qualified to assist with developing an exercise plan that is appropriate for your current level of fitness and take into account any current medical conditions, whilst also reducing your risk of injury. They will also assist you with developing strategies to incorporate more movement throughout your day.

Be mindful of your diet. Aim to reduce the consumption of processed foods, often high in saturated fats, sugar and salt. Opt instead, for foods such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrain, nuts, dairy, seeds and lean meat.

Be mindful of stress! The increased release of cortisol, our “stress hormone”, can trigger overeating and weight gain around our abdominal region.

Get some ZZZ’s. Lack of sleep places additional stress on the body, which in turn can lead to weight gain or retention.

Move more often! Research has shown that reducing your sedentary time to less than 60 minutes at a time can reduce your risk of chronic disease. It can be as simple as parking the car further from your destination, taking the stairs instead of the lift or even investing in a standing desk at work!