A trip to a Kansas City area hospital to visit a friend revealed something telling about our times.
A large chair in an examination room had a sign attached, where a person would stand before sitting. It cautioned that the comfortable, cushioned, high-back seat could only accommodate a person weighing no more than 500 pounds. I’d never seen such a restriction except in museums, where people are prohibited from sitting in antique chairs that were built for our smaller forebears.
In the same hospital, the toilets, which were bolted to the wall, also had sturdy, metal braces under the bowl to accommodate the extra weight of people who might sit on them without fear of collapsing with a flood of water that would follow.
But Americans keep getting larger. A 2011 report noted that when self-reporting, American men on average said they tipped the scale at 196 pounds, and women said they weighed 160 pounds. Each is about 20 pounds heavier than the average man and woman reported in 1990. Men said their ideal weight was 181 pounds while women said they’d like to be 138 pounds. The size of Americans today is far from ideal. More than one in three adults is obese, and more than two in three adults are overweight.
More than one in 20 adults is extremely obese, and a third of kids and teens age 6 to 19 are considered overweight or obese. In addition, more than one in six children and teens in the same age group are considered obese. As Americans too many of us would rather watch sports on TV, computers or other devices than break a sweat being actively and regularly involved playing sports. We’d rather connect passively on social media and with Facebook friends than play a round of golf, tennis, bowl, go bike riding or take a walk for exercise with real, face-to-face friends.
Many of the people entering that hospital recently told the story. They were oversized.
Hospitals, emergency rooms and medical professionals have to contend with the outcome of people being overweight or obese. It’s not just an American problem. Excessive weight and obesity affect people worldwide. The World Health Organization reports that one in three of the world’s adult population is overweight, and nearly one in 10 is obese. Also, nearly 40 million children on the planet under age 5 are overweight.
Our conveniences — whether cars, appliances, automated tools and leisure pursuits — have made life a low-calorie burn. They include electronic windows and doors on autos.
Video games replace playing outdoors for many kids, resulting in inevitable weight gain. Internet pursuits and longer hours at work instead of play cause more adults to gain unwanted weight. The problem with the excess is it further disables people from any physical activity. An illness makes matters worse.
That also was evident at that hospital. Newer wheelchairs were at least 1½ times as wide as any I had ever seen.
“Carrying extra fat leads to serious health consequences such as cardiovascular disease (mainly heart disease and stroke), type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders like osteoarthritis, and some cancers (endometrial, breast and colon),” the World Health Organization notes as many doctors and other health care professionals have warned. “These conditions cause premature death and substantial disability.”
Aside from helping people to look and feel good, being physically fit ensures that individuals will live longer and have a better quality of life. It’s never too late for individuals to become more active and change their diets, cutting down on high-calorie, high salt, high sugar and fatty foods.
Rather than do it all at once, the best way is to ease into the change so it’ll be lifelong. Doing so will help kids and adults live longer and stay out of hospitals, which are struggling to keep up with our unhealthy lifestyles.