Tuesday, October 05, 2010

China's army of coach potatoes

Obese patients take their lunch at the Aimin Fat Reduction Hospital in Tianjin, China
A new survey has revealed that more than a quarter of China's 1.3 billion people have now officially been classified as overweight or obese Photo: AP
Despite hopes that the 2008 Games would instil a healthy new appetite for sport, the vast majority of the host nation will spend the entire fortnight watching their heroes on television rather than emulating them in swimming pools or running tracks.
There is, however, a good excuse for such slothfulness: while the Peoples' Republic has spent vast amounts of money hothousing individual athletes through intensive training programmes, hardly any has been spent on public sporting facilities.
As a result, China is home to to what could one day become the world's largest army of couch potatoes - their ranks boosted an increasing fondness for Western junk food.
Beijing teenager Wang Sen is among them. Aged 14, he already weighs 12.5 stone, and is well aware of why. "I like Big Macs and pizza," he admitted to The Sunday Telegraph. However, it is not just his diet alone that is to blame. Although he attends two PE lessons a week at school, his parents - anxious for him to succeed in a highly-competitive job market - would prefer to see him get into university rather than spending time on an athletics track.
"I prefer playing computer games, I think they're more interesting," said Wang. "My parents would rather I concentrate on my studies than sport. I have an English lesson with an American teacher every day after school and do music lessons as well."
For all the attention lavished on the Olympic Games by the state, a new survey has revealed that more than a quarter of the country's 1.3 billion people have now officially been classified as overweight or obese. Experts predicting that could double by 2028, posing a serious threat to China's health system and putting a brake on the country's economic growth.
"The impact of poor diet, inactivity and obesity on medical costs, labour productivity and national production are very large," said the author of the study Barry M Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina's Population Centre.
More demanding jobs and increasingly hectic lifestyles mean that even those Chinese keen on sport have no chance to do any. More.

SHOOT: This means over 300 million Chinese are obese or overweight; that's the entire population of the USA.  I shouldn't talk, I'm overweight right now.  My BMI is 26 and it should be 18-23.  What's yours?

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