October 13, 2015 by Martha’s Dad
Every day, while standing out in the cold having my very unhealthy post-lunch cigarette, it seems more and more of my colleagues are out for a mid-day run. Have to admire their persistence. I must confess that I had money on many of them giving up on their summer exercise routines once the weather started to turn colder, but seems I was wrong. No desire to join them though, seems too much like hard work!
According to a new study by Ruth Brown and her colleagues, published in Obesity Research and Clinical Practice, my colleagues probably have the right idea. We are all familiar with the idea that average height increases slightly with each generation (just visit Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Stratford-Upon-Avon to see how short we used to be), but it may well be the case that weight is increasing also. Astonishingly, compared to their counterparts in the 1980s, many of my young colleagues are heavier today than they would have been back then, despite eating the same amount of food/calories and taking the same amount of exercise. But why?
The paper posits a number of hypotheses, but there is nothing conclusive. One theory is that we are exposed to more chemicals in our food today that contribute to weight gain, so organic produce may well have more going for it than many of us believe. It could also be the case that the bacteria in our stomachs have changed in their composition too, affecting the way we burn off calories; a development the authors believe may also be linked to over-use of antibiotics. It’s all quite worrying, the research (which studied over 36k adults) demonstrating quite clearly that a 25-year-old today consuming the same amount of calories and taking the same amount of exercise as someone the same age back in 1988 will still have a BMI 2.3 points higher! In fact, the only thing that has remained the same (despite the growth in designer gyms) is the average cost of a fitness club membership which, bizarrely, has remained constant at around £1850 p.a. So, the message to all my jogging colleagues is simple: if you want to be thinner than your mum was at your age, you need to work a lot harder than she did – the same level of activity isn’t good enough or you will still get bigger!
For those of us older, with no interest in exercise anyway, there’s another interesting twist in the tale. If I did take up running, I would lose weight a lot quicker with the same level of activity than a colleague half my age simply as a result of my 1960s metabolism. So there you go… I will carry on just watching for your sake, otherwise I’d just show you up!