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Beginning to unravel the riddle of obesity – what can we do in the rail industry?

In the rail industry obesity and the related health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol are a growing concern for employers. Shift work, poor lifestyle habits and choices, lack of health knowledge, sedentary job roles and much more are all contributing factors, but this problem is not limited to rail, it is of course a cultural and societal problem.

Currently 1 in 4 adults in the UK and 1 in every 5 children are obese and these numbers are rising. We are the second most obese country in Europe and if things continue as they are by 2030 we are looking at 64% of women being obese and 74% of men. This is a huge issue that desperately needs to be tackled but despite being aware of the health implications associated with obesity the problem appears to be getting worse.

In discussions with previous generations there are a combination of changes over the years that have led to this rise in obesity, but it is still far from a straight forward issue to fix. Growing up sixty- plus years ago there were often no TV’s, no video games and no cars, so kids played outside and walked everywhere. They helped their parents out with work around the house and in the countryside on the farm every day after school. Families often only had access to fresh home-grown or local foods which included meat, potatoes, homemade brown bread, vegetables grown in the garden or locally, porridge, fresh fruit etc. There was very little sugar or processed foods available and there was generally less snacking.

On the contrary, our environment today tends to encourage unhealthy lifestyle choices when it comes to food and physical activity across all ages. We have easy access to cheap overly processed high energy foods and yet often are not active enough to burn off this excess energy. Lots of us work in sedentary jobs and at the end of the day we get on a train to go home as most of us live far away from our place of work. We then sit in the evening either socialising or watch TV. A report by the British Heart Foundation in 2017 showed that 20 million adults (39% of all adults) in the UK were physically inactive. On top of all this stress, work pressure and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are on the rise and medically the unpleasant conditions associated with obesity are endless:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Some cancers
  • Reflux disease
  • Gallstones
  • Liver disease and much more

So why then is the issue getting worse and not better? And why is diet and lifestyle only a part of the problem and solution? Below are two fantastic, short, simple and concise videos that explain obesity and suggest solutions. These videos are from the Alliance for Natural Health, an internationally active non-governmental organisation promoting natural and sustainable approaches to healthcare worldwide. The following videos were created by the founder of the organisation Dr.Rob Verkerk:

 

 

 

 

There is a long way to go but a positive step is to help people understand their own role as an individual either in managing obesity or in preventing it in the first place. It’s also important for employers to realise that there is no quick fix or magic bullet and that everyone is different. Perhaps changing how we are addressing the issue in rail is the first step in the right direction if the problem is getting worse. It is certainly worth the discussion.

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