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A city of obese gym junkies

By Alexandra Craig 20 January 2015 35

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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.

What’s Your opinion?


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35 Responses to
A city of obese gym junkies
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batmantrilogy 11:44 pm 17 Jan 16

Well i have met a lot of people who would always have an excuse to work out or even go for a walk !
taking a balanced diet seems like a tough task to be asked.

zllauh 12:42 pm 14 Apr 15

i have seen a lot of blokes out there eating healthy food but they forget about their calorie intake and gain weight while having healthy food.
one must have a proper diet plan planned out by a dietitian.

tooltime 10:20 am 28 Jan 15

JesterNoir,

You’re on the money. The sedentary nature of modern workplaces and leisure activities we participate in are the two key factors directly related to obesity.

If you’re like an average Canberran office worker, you’ll spend at least 6 hours of your work day sitting. Add in another couple of hours commuting & on the idiot box/tablet/smartphone at night and your soon up to 10 hours a day of screen time. You’re asleep for another 7 or 8 hours, which means most folks are stationary for 18 hours a day, some people more than this (injured, nursing home folks, unemployed)…compare this to 50 years ago when most men where doing long hours of heavy manual work, and mod cons like refrigeration and vacuum cleaners meant women/ stay at home mums were doing a lot more manual activities around the home/farm and child rearing. No 3 hour movies, Peppa Pig & Wiggles DVDs…

What’s available in major supermarkets isn’t helping either. Look how much floor space soft drinks, confectionary, biscuits, ice cream and chips take up in your local shops. This is a relatively recent phenomena. For thousands of years, food was not easily & readily available to over consume for us peasants/plebs, only the wealthy… It takes plenty of willpower to reject this ongoing advertising bombardment, especially when you’re shopping with children, eh parents?

Being poor is another risk factor. Think of how miserable you might be if your always hungry, missing meals & struggling to put 3 squares a day on the table for yourself and family. Your gonna want some relief from your life of burden, which is why they spend proportionally more on drugs, booze, smokes & junk food. Just looking for a quick fix.The poors health outcomes are worse in just about every area, think dental, injury rehab, and lifestyle diseases (diabetes) which is understandable when you don’t have health insurance…How ironic is it that the poorest are the fattest?

I’d like to see increased nutritional & diet information available in schools. Most of us are still carrying on dietary behaviours we learnt in our developing childhood. Ask the average mother/ meal preparer if she knows:

1) how many calories junior should be getting each day
2) in what ratio carbs/protein/fats should they be getting as part of a balanced diet

and see the guesses and stunned looks you get on their faces. I saw a doco in Canada I think where Community Services took morbidly obese children from parents… And when you think about it, the child’s health & safety is in danger…food for thought. Still it could be worse. In Mexico, a Coke Executive has hijacked school canteen funding, and every kid gets 10 cans or so of coke each week for free…

beardedclam 11:58 am 25 Jan 15

This is all great reading.

Pretty much you can eat anything if you use the calories.

agent_clone 12:59 pm 24 Jan 15

crackerpants said :

agent_clone said :

I would like to point out that health research indicates that it is better to be overweight and fit, rather than thin and fit. Yes statistically if you are overweight/obese you are likely to have worse health outcomes, however if take into account fitness levels it is better to be overweight and fit rather than thin and fit.

So overweight people who are fit doesn’t sound too bad to me…

In regards to weight, my understanding is that most of your weight is determined by what you eat rather than exercise.

I think you might mean “thin and unfit”. Being thin and fit is just fine.

Nope, I meant that thin and fit people are more likely to die earlier than overweight and fit people. Overweight and unfit are more likely to die earlier than thin and fit though. They theorise that part of it is that if you fall ill being overweight means that you have excess potential food for your body so are less likely to die.

Here’s an article discussing weight
http://www.nutritionj.com/content/10/1/9

One on cardio vascular disease risks
http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/43/1/1.full

And a health report talk with the guy who wrote the second article.
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/healthreport/how-exercise-can-change-your-life/4205740

Apparenly a lot of the studies that are done don’t control for fitness.

JesterNoir 4:00 pm 22 Jan 15

Perhaps we’ve missed the obvious?
We’re a city with a larger population of office workers. Who sit. On their butts.
The go to the gym at lunchtime.
The sit on their butts for the rest of the day.

Here’s a few FYI’s:

“Immediately After Sitting
Right after you sit down, the electrical activity in your muscles slows down and your calorie-burning rate drops to one calorie per minute. This is about a third of what it does if you’re walking. If you sit for a full 24-hour period, you experience a 40 per cent reduction in glucose uptake in insulin, which can eventually cause type 2 diabetes.

After Two Weeks of Sitting for More Than Six Hours a Day
Within five days of changing to a sedentary lifestyle, your body increases plasma triglycerides (fatty molecules), LDL cholesterol (aka bad cholesterol) and insulin resistance. This means your muscles aren’t taking in fat and your blood sugar levels go up, putting you at risk for weight gain. After just two weeks, your muscles start to atrophy and your maximum oxygen consumption drops. This makes stairs harder to climb and walks harder to take. Even if you are working out every day, the deterioration starts the second you stop moving.

After One Year of Sitting More Than Six Hours a Day
After a year, the longer term effects of sitting can start to manifest subtly. Studies in woman suggest you can lose up to 1 per cent of bone mass a year by sitting for over six hours a day.

After 10-20 Years of Sitting More Than Six Hours a Day
Sitting for over six hours a day for a decade or two can cut away about seven quality adjusted life years (the kind you want). It increases your risk of dying of heart disease by 64 per cent and your overall risk of prostate or breast cancer increases 30 per cent.”

I’m one of the many who sit on my butt for over 6 hours a day, then smash it at the gym and try and eat well but I’m fighting against myself.
Perhaps we need a more holistic approach to our lifestyles, and not just say that if you eat less you’ll weigh less, because that’s a load of simplistic bollocks.

ozdownunder 10:44 pm 21 Jan 15

So many gym’s everywhere now, but good caters to all budgets of people

Evilomlap 12:55 pm 21 Jan 15

agent_clone said :

In regards to weight, my understanding is that most of your weight is determined by what you eat rather than exercise.

You are right with this. Exercise plays a part but it is a caloric deficit vs a caloric surplus that will determine whether or not you lose weight. It doesn’t matter whether your diet consists solely of Coco Pops and MacDonalds fries, or grilled chicken with lettuce, as long as you have a caloric deficit – ie you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight.

Postalgeek 10:00 am 21 Jan 15

Southmouth said :

Gyms are for people who like gyms and duck mouth selfies./quote]

I imagine you sporting a duck mouth while you were typing that comment.

crackerpants 9:53 am 21 Jan 15

agent_clone said :

I would like to point out that health research indicates that it is better to be overweight and fit, rather than thin and fit. Yes statistically if you are overweight/obese you are likely to have worse health outcomes, however if take into account fitness levels it is better to be overweight and fit rather than thin and fit.

So overweight people who are fit doesn’t sound too bad to me…

In regards to weight, my understanding is that most of your weight is determined by what you eat rather than exercise.

I think you might mean “thin and unfit”. Being thin and fit is just fine.

Southmouth said :

The key to a lifetime of healthy weight is to find a physical activity that you like enough to do regularly, motivated by your enjoyment of the activity (not by the weight loss it might provide). Gyms are for people who like gyms and duck mouth selfies. Refined sugar must be avoided like the plague and nutural fats in food is not necessarily bad.

Absolutely. It took me a very long time to realise this, and to find physical activities I enjoyed. 13 years of schooling taught me that I could play team sports, which I hated, or otherwise compete in individual events, which I also hated. It took a long time to discover yoga, weight training, running by myself, even gardening.

Tooks 9:47 am 21 Jan 15

Southmouth said :

The key to a lifetime of healthy weight is to find a physical activity that you like enough to do regularly, motivated by your enjoyment of the activity (not by the weight loss it might provide). Gyms are for people who like gyms and duck mouth selfies. Refined sugar must be avoided like the plague and nutural fats in food is not necessarily bad.

Gyms are for people who like gyms? Wow, profound! I’ve never taken a duck mouth selfie though.

Southmouth 9:15 am 21 Jan 15

The key to a lifetime of healthy weight is to find a physical activity that you like enough to do regularly, motivated by your enjoyment of the activity (not by the weight loss it might provide). Gyms are for people who like gyms and duck mouth selfies. Refined sugar must be avoided like the plague and nutural fats in food is not necessarily bad.

dkNigs 7:43 am 21 Jan 15

Alexandra Craig said :

Evilomlap said :

I think the problem is not 24 hour gyms it’s the overriding ‘quick fix’ mentality peddled by a lot of these dime-a-dozen ‘personal trainers’. This notion that you can ‘lose weight for summer’ by starting an exercise program in October is ridiculous. I wouldn’t trust most of these ‘personal trainers’ as far as I could throw them, which thanks to 5 years of consistent, slow and steady weight training and diet, would be reasonably far.

Well, technically you can lose weight for summer by starting in October, but it will probably only be a couple of kilos at most. And that’s how they get you. They’re not lying but they’re giving the perception that a complete body transformation can be done in a short amount of time. They’re using people’s lack of education and knowledge of health and general nutrition to their benefit. Not saying that what they’re doing is right, hence the need for greater education on these issues.

Of course you can lose a lot of weight and transform your body quickly if you’re dedicated. Coming back from broken arms I lost 14kg in September/October 2014 while toning up considerably. All in the diet, the boot camp I joined, and going to my 24 hour gym consistently. Even with Xmas indulging I still haven’t put weight back on.

If I can do it with ridiculous amount of muscle wastage from literally not using my arms and surgery, any regular unfit person can do it. All it requires is motivation, dedication, education and no excuses.

Nightshade 8:00 pm 20 Jan 15

Tooks said :

Perhaps the quarter of obese Canberrans are the ones not going to the gym.

That’s what I was thinking. I go to the gym regularly – I like to do BodyAttack and the class is always packed. No obese people there! I can’t say I’ve noticed anyone I’d call obese at my gym at all.

agent_clone 7:45 pm 20 Jan 15

I would like to point out that health research indicates that it is better to be overweight and fit, rather than thin and fit. Yes statistically if you are overweight/obese you are likely to have worse health outcomes, however if take into account fitness levels it is better to be overweight and fit rather than thin and fit.

So overweight people who are fit doesn’t sound too bad to me…

In regards to weight, my understanding is that most of your weight is determined by what you eat rather than exercise.

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