Sunday 8 March 2009

Eating ourselves to death ?

The UK newspaper "The Independent" just ran an article entitled "Eating ourselves to death".

Obesity is rising fast in the UK. Deaths due to obesity have risen by 35% over five years, even though there is a lot of under-reporting (read the article). By the year 2050, the cost to tax payers of medical problems due to obesity through the National Health Service and other agencies is expected to rise to £50bn a year. That is a huge amount of money. Just maybe spending a small proportion of that sum on truly encouraging cycling might be a way of reducing this vast expense later on ?

It's pretty obvious from walking down the road here that there are far fewer obese people in this country. It's also obvious that there are a lot more active people.

In related news, the BBC recently had a story on how "Increasing activity levels in middle age can prolong life as much as giving up smoking". Another good reason to promote cycling. Dutch over 60s make a quarter of all their journeys by bike. They are relatively fit and trim, and they have a longer life-expectancy than British people - despite the higher smoking rate and availability of food as pictured here.

The image is of poffertjes (small pancakes served in this case with cream, strawberries and lots of sugar) and beer as eaten by a participant on one of our tours last year. Delicious, and not too unhealthy so long as you are getting plenty of exercise on a cycling holiday.


Miguel said...

In a related vein, the below was posted in The Well and I think is quite relevant for cyclists:

At least in people over the age of 59, spatial memory skills correlate
nicely with physical fitness. The research, conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, measured the left and right hippocampi, the cardiorespiratory fitness, and tested the spacial reasoning of 165 adults between the ages of 59 and 81. As described in this write up from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign news office, the researchers found a significant association between an individual’s fitness and his or her performance on certain spatial memory tests. There was also a strong correlation between fitness and hippocampus size.

Anonymous said...

Oh I so agree! I don't know if it's because I'm so active, or genetics, but I've never had to worry about weight issues, so far. Knock on wood!

One more reason why I never got a car, and would be reluctant to get one, I am lucky I live close enough to things that I can bike or walk to them. We have crappy transit here, so I don't know what I would do if I got a job where there is no transit service and it's too far away to bike/walk, especially in the dead of winter. I live in Northern Canada, so winters get quite brutal.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I went on a recent trip to Holland and everyone just looked fitter, brighter and healthier than in the UK.

The problem is that the long term benefit of supporting cycling is not very quantifiable, and right now the UK is very short-term and reactionary. Also, in London the mayor only rides his bike in front of the cameras, so he would have no understanding of how to set up workable cycling laws.