Saskatchewan’s collective waistline is rapidly expanding, according to new numbers from Statistics Canada.
Numbers from the Canadian Community Health Survey show 45.9 per cent of adults are obese.
That’s up from 31 per cent over the past decade.
It’s also the highest obesity rate in the country, beating out provinces that usually top the list like Newfoundland.
Katya Herman, an associate professor of kinesiology and health studies at the University of Regina, said there are many factors behind the dismal first place ranking.
“It’s easy to look at lifestyle on the surface so physical activity, healthy diet, et cetera, but then we need to dig a little bit deeper behind it,” she told Gormley.
Herman suggested many socioeconomic factors are why Saskatchewan adults have been packing on the pounds.
“It’s easy to tell people, ‘Get your 30 minutes of exercise a day, eat your fibre, more fruits and vegetables a day,’” she said. “But if people are working multiple jobs just trying to simply put food on the table for their family, if they live four hours away from the nearest reasonably priced grocery store with fresh produce available, those choices aren’t necessarily the easiest choices to make in all people’s lives.”
She said this is reflected in the statistics, as there is more obesity up north – infamous for its outrageously high food prices – than in the southern region of the province or two major cities.
Herman is also studying how Saskatchewan’s extreme weather – from the heatwave experienced last week to the deep freeze faced most winters – affects waistlines. She said her lab is looking at “whether that creates another barrier to people able to be consistently active throughout the year.”
“(There are) many factors at play, I think, in this province that may not be seen in a province such as British Columbia to such an extent,” she said.
So what is the answer? Herman said it’s up to lawmakers to play a bigger role in scaling back obesity. She pointed to what governments did to tackle smoking rates, even going as far as banning smoking in public places.
“Realizing it’s not simply about telling people, ‘OK, you need to make that choice to be more active, you need to eat more healthy,’ but actually getting some policies behind that,” she said. “Realizing that choice isn’t the easiest choice for everyone in the population.”
The ranking comes from body mass index, or BMI, a calculation that factors in a person’s height and weight. It’s a calculation that’s often criticized for being too simplistic and not looking at the bigger picture of one’s health. But Herman said it’s accurate when comparing a large group of people.
“On a large population, those people are outliers – those people who have a huge amount of muscle for example – kind of the bodybuilders, et cetera,” Herman explained. “But on a large population scale, those are outliers, those aren’t the average person.”
Obesity was measured as a BMI at or exceeding 30.