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How does rural life affect weight?
Rural lifestyles are a major driver of the global obesity epidemic. This contradicts the popular view that weight problems are particularly a problem in cities.
A recent study by Imperial College London found that one of the main reasons for the increase in obesity was people's lifestyles in rural areas. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Nature".
Obesity has almost tripled since 1975
Obesity rates have almost tripled since 1975, with increasing numbers of people in cities being cited as the cause. However, in the current Body Mass Index (BMI) study of more than 112 million adults, the researchers found that while obesity is increasing everywhere, the BMI has increased faster in rural communities than in cities. The results of the comprehensive global study disprove the widespread belief that the increasing number of people living in cities is the main cause of the worldwide rise in obesity, the study authors explain. That means rethinking to address this global health problem.
What is the BMI?
The BMI is an internationally recognized index that is used to determine whether someone has a healthy body weight. A value between 19 and 25 on the scale is considered normal and healthy weight. The study found that 55 percent of the increase in the average BMI worldwide occurred in rural communities. For both men and women living in the country, the average BMI increased by 2.1 between 1985 and 2017. In comparison, the increase in cities was 1.3 for women and 1.6 for men.
Poorer countries are even more affected
The trend was even more pronounced in most low and middle income countries, as 80 percent of the increase in obesity was caused by people in rural communities. One of the main reasons for this is lifestyle changes. For example, the increasing use of cars and the mechanization of agriculture mean that the rural way of life involves considerably less physical activity than it did in the past.
Cities offer a wealth of weight loss opportunities
Public health discussions tend to focus on the negative aspects of urban life, the study's authors report. In reality, cities offer a wealth of opportunities for better nutrition, more exercise and recreation, and overall improved health. Such opportunities are often more difficult to find in rural areas. However, there was one exception to this trend: women in sub-Saharan Africa have a lower BMI than their urban counterparts. According to the researchers, this is mainly due to the fact that in many of these communities, both domestic and agricultural life is still dependent on manual labor, such as getting water over distances of one or more kilometers. (as)