Letnick: Is it better to be fit and fat than seated and skinny?

The more you and your family stay active the greater your chances of staying physically and mentally healthy.

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it’s better if you eat it standing up. I know, I know. You’re probably thinking: ‘Here goes Norm again, writing about the need to stay fit to help reduce the strain on our health care system.’

But it’s true. The more you and your family stay active the greater your chances of staying physically and mentally healthy.

That’s not only good for you, but frees up limited medical resources to look after the injured, chronically ill, frail in care, and so many others.

Are you fighting a little weight problem? Research from Dr. Steven Blair, of the University of South Carolina, shows that being inactive actually carries more health risks than carrying a few extra pounds.

In a recent article published in the BC Medical Journal, Dr. James Richardson says that the “fit fat” have lower health risks than the “sedentary skinny.”

The number of calories we consume has remained quite stable over the years. It’s our level of activity that has dropped—like me sitting here writing this on my computer.

Dr. Blair’s research concludes that increasing activity lowers mortality, regardless of your body mass index. In other words, your weight scale isn’t necessarily the best tool to help you stay healthy, but a clock—to measure time spent being active—might be.

This is far more important than just looking better in swimsuits. If we do not successfully tackle these issues, we can expect rising numbers of people with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis and chronic respiratory disease.

That sounds dire, so here’s the good news: All these diseases can be prevented or at least delayed. And while this will always come down to personal choice, government can play a role.

That’s why our government invested in a smoking cessation program, and why we are encouraging British Columbians to make healthy diet choices with our sodium sense tool and informed dining programs.

Our Healthy Start initiative supports all women and families with young children in B.C. in receiving care needed for optimal health, as well as provides additional supports to young, low-income, first time pregnant women and their children.

These things make a huge difference. If each British Columbian exercised 30 minutes a day, achieved and maintained a healthy weight, followed a healthy pattern of eating as recommended in Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, and refrained from smoking, we could reduce our risk for most chronic diseases by up to 80 per cent.

If all British Columbians had a healthy weight, were physically active, and didn’t smoke, the province could avoid over $3.8 billion in economic and health care costs each year.

So, of course, do your best to quit smoking, eat healthy foods (especially those grown by local farmers), and have the discipline to drink water instead of pop, diet or not.

But no matter how big you are, 30 minutes a day, five days per week, of moderate or stronger aerobic activity will do your body a world of good, keep you around longer to be with your family—and yes, make it easier for taxpayers to sustain and improve publicly-funded health care.

Kelowna Capital News