Obesity and Fitness
The World Health Organization describes obesity as a chronic disease in the developing countries as well as the developed countries. The prevalence of the disease is reportedly higher among women compared to men due to various reasons. According to WHO reports, obesity is on the rise across the world, making it a world epidemic (WHO, 2000). This report is further advanced by Walley (2006) who asserts that the obesogenic environment in the contemporary world has led to the increase in the prevalence of obesity across the world. Risk factors found in obesity range in type and occurrence. The most prevalent risk factors as indicated by Walley include genetic factors and food insecurity. The contribution of food insecurity to obesity prevalence is also suggested by Adams et al (2003) who studies the prevalence of obesity among women in California. Although the increase in obesity prevalence has been high across the general population, Ryan (2007) reports that women are at greater risk for obesity. Moreover, women also experience higher levels of stigmatization when affected with lifestyle diseases especially the weight related obesity. In those in whom obesity is prevalent, various socio- economic costs are also associated with the condition, and effectiveness of management results in the management of all the costs of the disease management process.
Apart from the financial costs incurred through the treatment of obesity, various health concerns are also associated with the condition. From a paper by Kulie et al, obesity is linked to various health impacts such as depression especially in women (2011). Depression is reported to be more prevalent among women with obesity due to the stigmatization that they undergo, especially in communities where fatness is considered contrary to the norm. The women in such societies undergo emotional instability which results in depression. From the work by Kulie and others, other potential health impacts of obesity include the increase in risk for diabetes mellitus, increased chances of experiencing musculoskeletal pains associated with arthritis; and risk for cancers. While these effects apply across the board, obese women are more likely to face greater potential health impacts than men due to their reproductive health lives. Hu (2013) reports that besides the cross gender risk of cardiovascular diseases that obesity causes, obese women are also at risk of major cancers which are caused by hormonal imbalances that result from obesity. Such cancers include endometrial cancer and post-menopausal breast cancer. This report is also supported by the work of Templeton (2014) who adds the risk of spontaneous miscarriages as one of the probable impacts of obesity among women.
While studying the potential health impacts of obesity among young adult women, Ryan (2007) recognizes the possibility of irregularities in menstrual cycle resulting from obesity and how this could also be accompanied by ovulatory failure in the obese women. Campos et al give the final closing point on the health impacts of obesity among women through the assertion that obesity results in increased mortality rates due to the myriad health challenges it poses (2006). To curb the potential impacts of obesity, the recognition of factors such as activity increase are discussed by Hillemeier et al (2010). Sand and others also suggest changes in food preferences, body size perceptions and increased physical activities as the most realistic ways of managing and preventing obesity. Records (2015) opines that early identification, effective screening procedures and interventions tailored to particular cases can help to improve the quality of life of obesity patients. However, this can only be achieved through enhanced understanding of the need for preventive rather than curative measures in addressing the menace of obesity.
With the confirmation that the only ways through which the quality of life can be improved for obesity patients is through effectiveness in processes of identification, screening and interventions, the question now remains as to whether obesity patients are more physically active compared to non-obese people or the other way round. If the non-obese people were more physically active, then the prevalence rates for the condition would reduce, however, if only the obese participate in more physical activities, the expected outcome is that more new people will be included in the obese group. This paper aims at determining which group of people between the obese and the non- obese are fitter than others through measuring their level of physical activity and endurance. The research question was “are the non- obese fitter than the obese?” This study is justifiable due to its potential for contributing immensely to the academic information regarding the concept of obesity.
An experimental approach was chosen to help in achieving the objectives of the research study. The experimental approach involved various participants who were involved in different activities as described in this section
A total of 12 students from Qatar University were involved in various fitness measuring activities. The participants were all female students who aged 19 to 22 years and who had varying weights. Among the students there were three obese, determined from their BMI; one overweight and two underweight students. The remaining six partakers had normal weight distributions. In order to determine which category of students were more physically active, the participants were involved in activities such as shuttle races, long jump and beep tests. Each of the participants was assigned a code name to ensure their identities were protected and to maintain privacy.
In order to facilitate the test activities, some of the equipment that were used included weights, ropes, tape measures and weighing machines. The weights were used in some of the activities where comparison was carried out between activity levels while carrying weights and activity levels without weights. They were also used to measure the strength endurance of the participants, through determination of the maximum load that could be lifted by each individual. Ropes and tape measures were used during pitch marking for the preparation of the fitness test races.
The participants were involved in a total of nine exercises each. The exercise included hand grip tests, 4 x10 shuttle run, long jump, sit ups and bleep tests. The shuttle runs, long jumps and grip tests were carried out in two sets each, with weight and without. The outcomes of the exercises were measured in units which could relate to physical endurance in activity. The objective was to compare the results obtained from the obese individuals with those relating to the healthy/ non- obese individuals. In order to ensure that ethical concerns were upheld during the activities, the participants were requested to participate only on conditions of free will rather than coercion. Moreover, they were also asked to report on the prevalence of any other diseases and/ or conditions that may influence their results to avoid putting any of the participants at risk for their health status. Only students who had no health related issues that would be affected by severe exercise were allowed to participate in the test activities.
To determine the condition of the participant, either obese or not, the BMI values were used. According to Nuttal (2015), BMI can be used as an effective measure of determining progress towards obesity or overweight status. It was therefore appropriate to use the reports of Page (2015) that BMI can be used through categorization into underweight (BMI less than 18.5); normal weight (BMI 18.5 24.9); Overweight (25 – 29.9) and obese (Above 30 Kg/ m2).
The results obtained from the tests are shown in the table below in terms of various measures:
|Test Name||hand grip (kg)||4*10 shuttle run test (s)||4*10 shuttle run test (s)||sit up (# of)||sit up (# of)||long jump (cm)||long jump (cm)||beep test (level)||beep test (level)||BMI||BFP||W/H|
|Name||Test with weight||w/o weight||Test with weight||test w/o weight||with weight||w/o weight||with weight||w/o weight|
Chart 1: Performance in various tests
The participants with BMIs of 30 and above were considered obese while those with 25- 29.9 were considered overweight. BMIS below 18 was taken to be underweight while those between 18.5 and 24.9 were taken as normal. If the objective to determine whether obese individuals are fitter than the non- obese ones is to be achieved, it is hypothesized that the level of fitness may reduce with increased BMI hence overweight and obese people are likely to be less active than normal weight and underweight people.
The main purpose of the study was to determine whether non-obese people are fitter than the obese. The trends observed in the performances of the participants in the tests clearly indicate that although physical activity in certain exercises was linked to the individual weight, there are others that are a function of personal strength rather than weight. Hillemeier et al (2010) suggests that low physical activity increases risks for obesity. This implies that the obese people are also more likely to be less physically active compared to the non-obese. It is expected that those who are more physically active are also fitter and of more normal weights. While carrying out the analysis, average performances in tests carried out with weights and those without were used to construct charts. The differences in the results for weighted tests and non-weighted tests was confirmed to be insignificant in the sit ups and the shuttle runs (p = 0.04) and slightly significant in the other tests (p=0.48 for beep test and p= 0.40 for long jump).
Chart 1: Performance versus BMI
From the chart above, comparison of the performances of the obese i.e. BMI 37, 31 and 34.5 in activities such as long jump and Beep Test and the non- obese indicated that the obese performed poorer in these tests than the rest of the participants. On the other hand, the obese performed better in the hand grip and shuttle run tests while the performance in sit ups was a personal characteristic of the different individuals. From these results, it may be suggested that while obese people are more likely to be less active more frequently, there is the probability that their level of fitness may also be linked to participation in activities that are more sedentary and which require immense strength. Physical fitness is more of a function of activity, characterized by increased cardio vascular activity and action of most parts of the body (Nuttal, 2015). This makes it essential to note that despite the perceived level of activity in the more or less sedentary tests, the obese may still be considered less fit compared to the non-obese who participate in more stimulating cardiovascular activities. Although strength in hand grip may relate to increased overall body strength, it cannot be linked to increased physical activity and cannot eliminate the risk for obesity or even the risk for cardio vascular diseases.
The BMI used as a measure of weight health is recommended by Nuttal (2015) and Page (2015). However, some issues are also raised by other authors who may constitute a case of bias in the present study. According to research carried out by Rothman (2008), the relationship between BMI and the percentage of body fat is nonlinear. This is explained through differences in body structures of males and females, where while males may be of higher weights and higher BMIs, their weight constitute lean mass as opposed to those of women who may exhibit lower BMIs but with greater percentages of body fat. Consequently, BMI is considered to be an inaccurate method of determining whether one is obese or not since the percentage of body fat is what determines the obesity factor. Stengel (2012) thus recommends the use of the body build index i.e. Weight/ Height ratio. Despite being shown in the present study, there are also concerns that the same issues surrounding BMI use also influence the body build index use.
The objective of the study was to determine whether non-obese individuals, particularly women from Qatar University are fitter than the obese individuals. Obesity has been associated with several health and quality of life related factors such as diabetes mellitus, various types of cancers and various reproductive health issues among women. Various authors suggest physical activity to curb the impacts of obesity. Physical activity also relates to the level of fitness, making it essential to engage in greater activity levels. However, from the results obtained herein, the obese individuals are more likely to be less active hence can be considered to be less fit compared to the non-obese. The implication is that the obese tend to engage in more stationary exercises such as hand grips rather than in the more spontaneous and cardiovascular exercises such as runs.
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