Honey, pass the last slice

What are your opinions on diet and exercise? Seriously now, how important is daily exercise and a well thought out diet to you? Do you believe that we are on a slippery slope towards a Western society dominated by non-communicable disease and poor health? What do you think the underlying causes are?

I would like to present a few global facts and statistics to highlight a few current trends. Statistics speak louder than words sometimes!

According to country estimates for 2008, over 50% of both men and women in the WHO European Region were overweight and roughly 23% of women and 20% of men were obese. Even more worryingly, 1 in 3 of our children are obese. All told, that means that obesity rates have increased by a stunning 500% since 1970. Considering these facts would you believe that not a single country in the entire world has succeeded in reducing its rates of obesity in the past 33 years?


obesity-graphWhat are the implications of these statistics you might ask?

70% of obese children have at least one risk factor for heart disease, 39% have two or more risk factors for heart disease. Over one third of kids born after 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in their lives! That has resulted in the World Health organisation projecting that today’s children will be the first generation since 1929 to have a shorter projected life span than their parents. Being overweight or obese are known contributing factors to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and a wide range of other health problems (non-communicable diseases).

Lets talk money, as this often speaks louder than both words and statistics! Quantification of the costs from the health consequences of obesity is complex. In 2002, the combined direct and indirect costs of obesity for Europe were estimated at roughly €33 billion a year.



The incremental lost workdays and costs of absenteeism from high body mass index (BMI) was calculated to amount to a loss of up to three million productive person-years in working adults, representing an economic cost for Europe to be as high as €460 billion. It must also be noted that obese children are 300% more expensive to our health care system than children of a healthy weight. That last slice could cost you a little more than you were thinking!


So what’s causing these world-wide problems?

fast food consumption

The answer is not a simple one. The main contributing factors are our current lifestyles and the quality of the food we eat. Fast food portion sizes have increased by between 200-500% since 1955, with a calorific increased intake of around 200 calories a day. 200 calories a day, resulting in a net increase in weight of 9 kg a year. We have coupled this increased intake with reducing our daily activity levels, walking less, sitting more, spending more time in our living rooms than outside! This discrepancy between calories being consumed and those being burned is what lies at the root of these issues. We live in a society which has conformed around eating more and moving less; I believe these will have negative implications to both our mental and physical health.

Would you like a few examples?


I’d like to try put things into perspective for you, so here are a few examples that might hit close to home. The breakdown covers the calories in some common foods and the amount of exercise that an average person would need to complete to burn them off. Calorie expenditure is calculated for a 75kg individual at moderate intensity exercise. Don’t use the below statistics as absolute facts (a few great apps exist to help you on that front) but rather as a set of examples of emphasise my point.


How can a physiotherapist help?

PhysioPhysiotherapists work with a wide range of people to optimise their physical activity, from elite athletes, to older people seeking to remain active as they age, to children at higher risk of health problems due to their weight.

More than any other profession, a physiotherapist can prevent chronic disease by helping people become more active. Exercise prescription is one of the main roles of the physiotherapist and can have a massive impact on your health and quality of life.

The role of the physiotherapist becomes all the more relevant as obesity rates continue to increase each year!

I do not want it to seem like this is all gloom and doom, as in everything else moderation and balance is key! Nothing beats a good meal out with friends, but why not couple that with a nice long walk afterwards?

To a longer, healthier, happier life!

About the Author

Matthew Camilleri

Matthew Camilleri is a Physiotherapy graduate from the University of Malta. He is currently reading for a Masters degree in clinical pain management with the University of Edinburgh.

He has been involved in a wide array of sports throughout his life, ranging from volleyball and handball to football and rugby, either through his work or participation. He has been involved in local rugby for the past 10 years and has formed part of the Maltese national rugby team. Outside of physiotherapy he is also an IRB certified strength and conditioning coach and sports first aider, apart from having a keen personal interest in sport and exercise.

Over and above entry-level physiotherapy he is a certified kinesiology-tape practitioner and  an  AACP approved acupuncturist. His main area of clinical interest is pain management, especially chronic musculoskeletal pain. He is also interested in exercise and exercise prescription, especially strength and conditioning.

Should you wish to get in touch with Matthew, feel free to contact him via email (mcam0105@gmail.com) or book an appointment via phone (99212822).

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