As the obesity epidemic continues to increase, with almost 25% of the British population now officially obese (according to the Body Mass Index), action is needed to at least halt, and ideally reverse, this growing epidemic.
If nothing is done, then it is estimated that by 2050 obesity will affect 60% of the population. Fortunately the government is now taking action. A £372 million incentive scheme is aimed at making Britain the first country in the world to reverse the rising obesity levels.
Initiatives, which will be tested in a few selected areas at first, include a single food labeling system, measures to boost walking and cycling and extra controls on junk food advertising to children.
Measures in the USA, which have showed some positive results, include offering obese adults $14 for every 1% reduction in their body weight. With such an incentive, adults were found to be five times more likely to reach their weight loss target.
Fitness Classes for Obese Patients
Some English counties are already providing free fitness classes for obese adults. The Chief Instructor at 5 Elements Martial Arts in Basildon has been approached by local government to devise a series of exercise classes for patients referred by the NHS.
Classes will involve simple exercises to introduce cardio and strength training, combined with some kick-boxing moves, and will aim to show that exercise can be enjoyable.
Subsidized Diet and Fitness Lessons
This is not a new initiative though, as in 2006 dance classes were provided on the National Health Service as part of a pilot scheme to reduce obesity.
Before that, in February 2004, the Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust (PCT) in south west London subsidized diet and fitness classes for 20 people picked from seven surgeries. This was funded by the National Lottery’s New Opportunities fund.
Not all members of parliament were in favour however. Tory MP Ann Widdecombe suggested that people could dance around in their own homes or go for walks rather than have dance classes on the NHS.
However Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary at the time, believed that intervening at key points will encourage healthier behavior and save money for the NHS in the long term.
Hopefully the new initiative will form a blueprint for the future. If anything can be learnt from the past four years, it is that initiatives need to lead to greater things, or they will be quickly forgotten by government in favour of a new scheme, and local councils will lose funding before they have had time to report on their success.
The main thing that we have learned about challenging obesity is that as well as government intervention then needs and requirements of the obese population are of vital importance. Obesity is a physical condition that results from a psychological condition.
People often know that eating too much is not a good thing but they simply cannot control their own desire to eat more. It is easy to blame the junk food industry for aggressive marketing and the government for allowing it, but it is essentially people that make the decisions.
Obesity has been a problem since before food processing started, the current environment may increase the likelihood of a person becoming obese, but it is not the driving factor. There are still many slim people that are proof that obesity is not the norm and that a healthier lifestyle is possible for almost everyone.