What Makes Us Fat: Too Much Food vs Lack of Activity

The vast majority of people live with the holy belief that obesity is caused by the growing excess of calories consumed. Yes, lack of physical activity also plays a role, but the main reason is we eat more and more. That is, put your nutrition plan in order now, and the extra pounds will gradually dissipate, even if you continue to sit and lie all the time.

Surprisingly, recent studies by scientists living in one of the most obese countries have revealed an interesting fact.

Over the past 20 years, people haven’t really started eating anymore. But they began to move much less.

These statistics are perfectly applicable (maybe even to a greater extent) to the citizens of Russia, and therefore treat this text with due care.

Severe physical inactivity isn’t just affecting middle-aged people tied to office chairs. Young people at their age who used to actively move do the same – they sit in front of the screens of computers, smartphones and tablets for days on end.

Yuri Ladabaum, a professor at Stanford Medical School, decided to determine the relationship between the importance of food and activity based on medical data obtained from the federal NHANES program. He took the information for 1988 and compared it with the figures for 2010.

The professor expected to see an increase in the number of calories consumed over the past 20 years, but it turned out that people did not eat more.

These results are quite surprising, especially given the trend of increasing average serving size and the popularity of the notion that we are eating more and more.

However, Yuri immediately clarifies:

We may be consistently overeating, but the data does not show any significant increase in calorie intake over the years.

Perhaps, already in 1988, Americans ate too much, but this did not lead to such massive obesity. But the dynamics of physical activity stands out against the background of other indicators and demonstrates an extremely strong decline.

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In the 1980s, 80 to 90% of people engaged in some kind of physical activity on a daily basis in some way. Now about half of Americans are not active at all, and this data, according to Yuri, is greatly underestimated, since many people tend to exaggerate their daily work.

Physical activity has declined in all age groups, but the most surprising rate of decline in activity among people between 18 and 39 years old. Below is the data for the United States, but you can easily transfer it to our social groups.

  • The number of white and African American women with no activity has more than tripled. For people from Mexico, this figure has almost doubled.
  • The number of inactivated white and African American males also more than tripled. For immigrants from Mexico, this figure has doubled.

Ladabaum says that against the background of such data, one should still not forget about the food factor. Which is worse: gluttony or laziness? In this case, you cannot choose the worst of two evils. Both are unacceptable.

The problem of lack of activity is aggravated by the changed labor market, which has relocated a significant part of people to cozy offices.

In 1960, one in two Americans worked in a job that included full-fledged physical activity. By 2008, there were very few Americans left whose work would not involve sitting in a chair permanently.

These are the words of Tim Church, professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at the University of Louisiana. His research suggests that only one in five Americans now move at work. However, these are statistics based on official data, but in practice the ratio may well be 1/10.

We’ve all seen these old photos from the sixties where people assembled cars. They take the bumpers and put them on the bodies. Now take a look at the modern build. There are no people in the shops at all. One robot takes a part, another robot fixes it.

Church went further and counted the amount of excess calories resulting from inactivity. For men, this figure is 140 kcal per day. For women – 120 kcal per day. It seems not so much, but consume them day in and day out and the result will not be long in coming.

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So what should an office worker do when forced to sit in a chair all day? In such a situation, activity outside of working hours becomes critical. We are not necessarily talking about serious sports. If we talk about those very excess 140 kcal, then they can be fully compensated for by daily 30-40 minutes of walking at a moderate pace.

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