A day doesn’t go by when I don’t see a gym selfie, or a photo of a meal hashtagged #cleaneating. We seem to be obsessed with exercise, fitness, and healthy eating. So why is Australia ranked fifth highest in the OECD for obese adults?
It could be due to several reasons. Perhaps people go to the gym, but don’t exercise vigorously enough to break a sweat, let alone burn a significant amount of calories (maybe they’re too busy taking photos). Perhaps those who post photos of their ‘clean’ or ‘raw’ foods are ignoring the calorie count. Just because something is clean, doesn’t make it healthy, or okay to eat double the amount of. I see plenty of ‘clean’ recipes online stuffed with ingredients like coconut oil and cacao. Sure, these ingredients are the healthier alternative to vegetable oil and regular chocolate, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have calories in them.
A report released for the 2012-13 period predicted Australians would spend around $1.7 billion on gyms and personal training. That’s a lot of money that’s essentially going down the drain if people don’t match it with a healthy and balanced diet.
Around a quarter of Canberrans are considered obese, and a further 38 per cent are considered overweight. That’s 63 per cent of us who are above a healthy weight. And I guarantee a big chunk of that 63 per cent have gym memberships.
24-hour gyms are on the rise. I can think of at least six different chains of gyms that have several 24-hour clubs in Canberra. Who wants to work out at 3.00am? I imagine the only people that do are shift workers. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the ACT has the lowest proportion of shift workers in the country, so the numbers of people going in and out of these 24-hour gyms after hours must be relatively low. So why do they exist?
Do people think “Yeah, a 24 hour gym. That’s what I need. I am very busy so being able to work out at 10.00pm would really suit me,” and then sign up because it seems convenient, but then only get to the gym once a week or fortnight? The gym I’m a member of is not open 24 hours. Sometimes this sucks, but not in the middle of the night. Generally the weekend hours are where it gets me – closing at 2.00pm on Saturdays, opening at 2.00pm on Sundays. This can be a bit inconvenient, and yes I’d get more exercise in if it was a 24-hour gym, but not any time after 8.30pm, or before 8.00am.
Are we too heavily influenced by the marketing of these 24-hour gyms, or is there a lack of education on how our bodies work, and how weight is actually maintained? Do people realise that weight loss is 80 per cent diet, 20 per cent exercise? The former President of the Australian Medical Association Dr Steve Hambleton has previously said that unless someone is a marathon runner, they will be able to out-eat any exercise program, no matter how rigorous.
Until there’s greater education on food and how much fuel we actually need to function, I fear the obesity levels will rise each year.