Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Canadians are overweight, out of shape, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and are weak.

Other than that we're doing great.

According to a recent Statistics Canada report on a huge nation wide survey done between 2007 and 2009 (Canadian Health Measures Survey), the following represent Canadians:

Cholesterol and Triglycerides 

  • Over 40% of Canadians aged 20 to 79 have an unhealthy level of total cholesterol and about 25% have an unhealthy level of triglycerides. Link

Body Weight

  • Almost 45% of Canadian women aged 18 to 79 had a normal weight for their height as did 31% of men.  Link

Um.. Why is that the way this data is written?  Is it good that 45% and 31% of woman have "normal weight for their height"?  Doesn't that mean that 69% of men and 55% of woman are overweight?

No. Some people are underweight. How many?  The Stats Can chart says 0.8% of men and 2.2% of woman.  Oh.. heh.. I guess that does mean 69% of men and 55% of woman are overweight, save for a mere fraction.

An what about reporting on the trending?  Have we been stable at this percentage of the population being overweight? Are there more or fewer people over weight now compared to the last few years?

Check out these quotes: Link

  • "At ages 40 to 69 years, the percentage of males and females whose waist circumference placed them at a high risk for health problems more than doubled between 1981 and 2007-2009; at ages 20 to 39 years, percentages more than quadrupled.
  • Between 1981 and 2007-2009, the percentage of Canadians aged 40 to 69 years categorized as fair or needing improvement according to their body composition (BMI, waist circumference and skinfold measurements) more than doubled. Among males aged 20 to 39 years, the increase was fourfold, and among younger females, sevenfold."
SEVEN FOLD? Are you kidding me? a 700% increase in body fat measurements in younger females?

At the bottom of the body composition summary page Stats Can has this blurb:

  • "Several anthropometric measurements were taken as part of the Canadian Health Measures Survey—height and weight, waist circumference, hip circumference and five skinfolds—on a sample of 3,700 adults aged 18 to 79 to obtain an overall picture of body composition, which can be linked to health benefits." Link

Linked to health benefits? Does that mean the measurements taken revealed healthy Canadians? What? how can a population where 69% of men are overweight by the same database also be referenced as being linked to health benefits?  Younger females 700% increase in body fat composition measurements from 1981 to to 2007-2009, can be linked to health benefits?

OH.. right they don't actually say that.  Hmm.. is this what is called "weasel words"?

I think so. Sure, if the actual measurements taken were low enough to be linked with health benefits, then yes such measurements, could then be associated with health benefits.

It's like saying, "Price tags can be linked to good deals, and boy to we have a lot of price tags."  UH huh. Wanna buy a watch?

You actually have to dig fairly deep to get the whole picture. Lot's of links to follow..  Not to worry, I've done the work, and now you can see the real summary of the data.

I am bothered by the inconsistency in reporting style. I don't think it serves the average Canadian well to report on our health status with the ambiguity I have pointed out here.  Good fodder for making quips though..

The fact is anthropometric measurements can also be linked to health risks; bigger is generally worse, and we're bigger for sure.

Aerobic fitness ratings

  • "In Canada, 31.1% of women aged 15 to 69 and 32.2% of men were categorized as having a "Good" health benefit rating. This category represents the largest proportion of Canadian adults. When looking at both ends of the spectrum, more adults have a "Needs Improvement" and "Fair" health benefit rating as opposed to "Very Good" and "Excellent".  Link

Both ends of the spectrum?  Give me break!  The big news here is that about 50% of the population, most likely more, is grossly out of shape.  And just what does "good" and "excellent" mean anyway? The average person aged 20 to 39 had estimated VO2 max (how much oxygen the body can use during all exercise like running at top speed) between 38.45 and 44.08 mL/kg/ min (females and males respectively).

You are considered sedentary when VO2 max is 40 mL/kg/min (this means your body can burn through 40 millilitres of oxygen per kilogram of your body mass over one minute of all out physical effort).  A reasonably fit persons VO2 will be around 50 to 55 mL/kg/min- someone who exercises regularly and would have no problem running 5K at fair pace, or equivalent depending on the activity they like to do.  Pretty good athleticism starts at about 60 mL/kg/min- these would be your committed weekend warriors and recreational athletes.

Although some elite athlete's have comparatively low VO2 levels - between 60 and 65, the upper levels of elite athlete fitness starts at around 70 mL/kg/min and goes up to about 80.

More lowest common denominator standards, if you have the VO2 max of a sedentary person, you're in "good" health. 

Muscular Strength (tested by grip strength)
  • "Among those aged 20 to 39, mean muscular strength is 97 kg for males and 56 kg for females. The average muscular strength for males aged 6 to 79 is 84 kg, and for females, it is 51 kg." Link
I frankly don't believe these numbers. This data does not represent what I have seen personally, and does not match other population grip strength studies.  These numbers are DOUBLE what is usually seen.  Either there was an error in collecting/ recording the data, or for some funky reason the average Canadian who does not exercise somehow has freakazoid grip strength.  Maybe they measured in pounds but somehow messed this up and recorded the pounds as kilograms.  Maybe they used a new testing device that is totally different than the current standard.

Whatever the case, there is no way the average male can squeeze out a 97 kg grip strength result. 

Muscular endurance

  • "Over one-third of women aged 20 to 39 and the majority of those aged 40 or older were unable to complete even one partial curl-up. Less than a third (31%) of women aged 20 to 39 completed the full 25 curl-ups, and at ages 60 to 69, the percentage was 4%.
  • More men completed the full 25 curl-ups: 55% of men aged 20 to 39 and 11% of men aged 60 to 69."

What can I say about that? How bad do we have to get before we smack ourselves in the face and get with the program to save our health, save our bodies?

We are far to accepting of excessively low standards for our health and fitness.

Moreover the very second the average Canadian actually does something positive about their health they are likely to be admonished by at least some if not most of their peers. We're not supportive of others trying to live healthy, they're called fitness freaks or nuts.  So not exercising and developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being so weak you can't do an abdominal crunch is the norm to be compared to, and if you're any further ahead than that you are freak?

I don't know people.. Despite some unique choices of wording for this report, the data shows we suck rocks big time.  Is this incentive enough to change?

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