Worrying figures have revealed that the vast majority of people in Ireland are unaware of factors that could lead to obesity.
The figures, released by the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) show that 82% of people were unaware of the amount of exercise needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The ISCP surveyed 1,000 people about how much exercise and physical they do per week.
People need to exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week but 37% said they have become less active in recent years.
ISCP President Jill Long said: “The ignorance of the main facts related to the benefits of exercise for positive health is both startling and alarming and requires the immediate raising of public awareness by the Government and the HSE.
“Physical inactivity is among the most significant global health problems in the 21st century. It is the fourth highest cause of mortality worldwide and is in the top 10 causes of death and disability in moderate to high income countries.”
An alarming 97% of people didn’t know that children under the age of five were the most vulnerable to obesity.
A third of people don’t know that older people who are regularly active are less likely to fall, while 20% of people didn’t know that exercise can be used as a treatment for mild forms of depression.
Ms Long said that physiotherapists have an enormous role to play in helping people become more aware of behaviour that can lead to obesity.
She believes that they need to advise schools and industries on issues such as health, behaviours and exercise.
She said: “Health policy and decision makers need to recognise the intrinsic value of chartered physiotherapy which has the capability to influence significant cost savings and reduce waiting lists in the healthcare system”
While many of the results of the survey were alarming, 41% of people had actually increased their activity levels in the last five years.
Dublin is leading the way in terms of proportion of residents who have increased their activity levels. The recession has taken its toll but while gym memberships are down, the number of people going running is on the increase.
Chartered physiotherapist Jenny Branigan appeared on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
She said: “With the downturn and people being under financial constrictions it sometimes means the physical activity gets bumped down the list of priorities.
“But having said that there’s a great running boom on at the moment so we’re seeing people out in numbers like we’ve never seen before.
“So there have been a lot of people who are getting active but overall the trend seems to be people in general are not aware of how much physical activity is required to try and keep healthy.”
If the trend continues there will be an increase in the number of people who develop cardiac issues or type-2 diabetes.
Some key obesity warning signs
An average man is 1.77 meters tall. He is classed as obese if he weighs over 95kg.
An average woman is 1.62 meters tall. She is classed as obese if she weighs over 79kg.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to calculate whether a person has a healthy weight.
People with a BMI of less than 18.5 are classed as underweight.
People with a BMI from 18.5-25 are at a healthy weight.
People with a BMI from 25-30 are classed as overweight.
People with a BMI over 30 are classed as obese.
Calculate your BMI here
It is important to keep active and lead a healthy lifestyle as obesity can lead to illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, gout, kidney disease and even some forms of cancer – and many more.