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Healthy Weight

Why a healthy weight?

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for health for a number of reasons. Excess weight in childhood has been associated with overweight and obesity later in life, increased risk of the development of chronic disease and other physical and social difficulties. In adulthood, overweight and obesity is strongly associated with the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

How is weight status calculated?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is most commonly used to calculate weight status. BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared. For adults, healthy weight is classified as a BMI between 20 and 25, overweight between 26 and 30 and obese 30 and over. For children, the calculation is a little more complicated as a child’s age and sex must also be taken into account. Therefore, to accurately calculate a child’s weight status, their BMI should be plotted on a published growth chart. Alternatively, a BMI calculator for children can be used to calculate weight status.

How can Better Health Resources help?

Many of the Better Health Resources have been designed to assist people to improve their eating and activity habits, thereby improving weight status.

Causes of Obesity

The reasons why people become overweight are complex. Changes in society, the way food is produced and the way we spend our time have made it very easy to gain more weight than is good for our health. Environmental factors and our genes play a part too.
It’s about what we eat and how active we are. If we eat too much food (particularly fatty and sugary foods) and don’t do enough physical activity, the body stores the extra energy from the food we eat in fat cells underneath our skin. Most people in modern western societies are not doing enough physical activity. Our jobs, our hobbies and the way we move from place to place often involve little physical effort. This makes it easy to gain weight, especially if we are eating a diet that is high in fatty and sugary foods.

People often don’t realise that they are eating unhealthily. There is a lot of confusing information about what foods are healthy and what foods aren’t. Therefore it is not surprising that many people simply don’t eat healthily.

Losing weight should involve changing diet and activity levels. Most people won’t lose weight in the long term unless they change their eating habits and become more active. It is very difficult to lose weight by increasing activity alone. Also, losing weight by eating less means that you may miss out on the health benefits that being more active provides.

Associated Health Problems:

After smoking, eating unhealthily and being inactive are the two most common preventable causes of chronic disease.

Being overweight or obese can cause serious health problems.

As the number of people who are overweight increases, so too are the number of people living with the serious chronic illnesses that can be caused by being overweight. These include (but are not limited to):

  • cardio-vascular (heart and blood) disease
  • some cancers
  • type 2 diabetes
  • infertility
  • asthma
  • fatty liver
  • gallstones
  • high blood pressure

Children and adults who are above a healthy weight are much more likely to develop chronic diseases. The psychological, physical, and economic burden of rising levels of chronic disease is now one of the major challenge facing western societies.

Facts and Figures:

The number of people who are above a healthy weight (overweight or obese) across the world is rising every single year.

A global epidemic

  • There are 1 billion overweight and obese people in the world. 155 million of them are children.
  • Obesity levels have quadrupled over the last 25 years, according to the World Health Organisation.

What about Australia specifically?

  • In Australia, childhood obesity rates have risen to 25% - from just 5% in the 1960's.
  • According to the 2004-2005 National Health Survey, 7.4 million Australian adults are overweight or obese - approximately 60%.
  • In 2007, the Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, found that approximately 69 per cent of boys and girls did at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most of the days surveyed. The children surveyed demonstrated a low level of observance of the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia.