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Health Notes: Obesity mortality rate higher than previously thought; kids need more exercise

Obesity mortality rate higher than previously thought but fitness industry fights back.

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Obesity death toll higher than previously thought
The obesity epidemic has claimed more lives than previously thought, according to a recent study led by a team of sociologists from Columbia University.


Results of the study, which found 18.2 percent of premature deaths in the United States between 1986 and 2006 were associated with excess body weight, were published recently in the American Journal of Public Health. The toll was previously thought to be 5 percent.

“Obesity has dramatically worse health consequences than some recent reports have led us to believe,” Ryan K. Masters, PhD and lead researcher for the study said in a university news release. “

Those at higher risk for premature death are people born in the 1970s and 1980s who have struggled with excess weight since childhood, researchers said. Childhood obesity often follows people into adulthood and this group is at a higher risk for premature death, the journal article notes.

According to PHIT America statistics, 68 percent of Americans are obese or overweight, 28 percent of Americans are sedentary and 48 percent of all high-school students have no physical education programs.

But the fitness industry isn’t just sitting back and letting this happen. In addition to PHIT America, the American Council on Exercise added more members to its Industry Advisory Panel to build relationships with health care leaders both in corporate and government sectors.

“We know tackling the obesity epidemic requires collaboration and that the fitness industry has much to offer in the fight as we build bridges with health care, policy and workplaces,” ACE President and CEO Scott Goudeseune said in a news release. “Aligning our efforts with those of government leaders in Washington, fitness facilities in Europe, academic institutions across the country and new health care initiatives, will determine whether we succeed in making a difference long term.”

So what? The fitness industry is making strides to fight obesity — especially with programs like PHIT America and the American Council on Exercise Industry Advisory Panel. If you wish to help, find out how to get involved by visiting the PHIT America website and the ACE website. The more people want get healthy, the more business the industry will see.

For the scientifically minded: A free abstract of the article can be found here.

Kids, especially girls, need more exercise
Since the previous study showed that childhood obesity follows people into adulthood and could cause premature death, we should get our kids out and exercising early and often.

They saying goes, “You are who you are by the time you’re 5.” That’s not true for exercise habits. One study, results of which were recently published in the online journal BMJ Open, found that 7 was the magic ages that determines whether kids will remain active or sedentary.

The study, conducted by researchers at University College London, found that only 51 percent of the 6,500 7-year-olds monitored got the recommended daily level of physical activity. Plus, it was way less for girls than boys — only 38 percent of girls got enough physical activity versus 63 percent of boys.

“The findings are particularly worrying because 7-year-olds are likely to become less active as they get older, not more,” said Carol Dezateux, one of the lead authors on the study, in a news release.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that typically the level of physical activity declines as young people age.

She noted that the school playgrounds are often filled with little boys engaging in games like football and we need to figure out a way to get those playgrounds filled with active girls.

“There is a big yawning gap between girls and boys,” “We need to really think about how we are reaching out to girls.”

Though this study was conducted in the United Kingdom, youngsters in this country are facing similar challenges, like an ever-present high number of childhood obesity and public schools dropping physical education programs and cutting recess times due to funding cuts.

So what? If kids aren’t active lovers of exercise now, chances are they won’t be your customers later. We need to figure out a way to address the inactivity and childhood obesity that our youngsters are facing.

For the scientifically minded: Find the free abstract here and the free full-text version here.