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Health paradox

Despite more exercise, more Swiss are overweight

Overweight youngsters have fun through exercise at an obesity camp. (Keystone)

Overweight youngsters have fun through exercise at an obesity camp.


Two-fifths of the Swiss population aged 15 and older are overweight, despite the fact that over the past ten years people have increased the amount of exercise they take, according to the Swiss Health Survey released on Thursday.

The survey, conducted in 2012, found that 72 per cent of people took the recommended amount of exercise or more, which was ten per cent up on the 2002 figure. The proportion of people who took no exercise fell from 19 per cent in 2002 to 11 per cent in 2012. But the number of those who were overweight or obese had nevertheless increased by 11 per cent.

The survey found that 83 per cent of people regarded themselves as being in good, or very good, health. Only three per cent said their health was poor.

There was a marked difference between the sexes in the numbers who are overweight: 51 per cent of men, and 32 per cent of women. However, the difference between the proportion of obese people was much smaller: 11 per cent of men, and nine per cent of women.

Overweight and obesity are defined in terms of Body Mass Index (BMI): an individual’s body mass divided by the square of their height. A person with a BMI from 25 up to 30 is defined as overweight; obesity is 30 and over. However, BMI does not take into account the difference between fat and muscle.

The increase in the numbers of those overweight affected all social strata, but people who had completed only compulsory schooling were more likely to be obese than those who had higher qualifications.

People with lower levels of education were also more likely to suffer from long-term problems and to rate their own health lower.

Federal Office of Public Health Director Pascal Strubler told French language public radio that the paradox between the rise in the amount of exercise and in the proportion of overweight people might be explicable in terms of nutrition.

“People may not be eating enough fruit, not enough so-called ‘healthy’ food. Those are the areas we shall be looking at in our efforts to keep people informed,” he said.

He also suggested that despite people taking the recommended amount of exercise, that might not be enough.

The Swiss Health Survey was based on interviews with about 21,500 permanent Swiss residents aged 15 and over.

swissinfo.ch and agencies



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