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The Whole World Is Getting Fatter All At Once

As you sit this morning, take comfort in knowing that the obesity epidemic is expanding to every nook, cranny and love handle of the globe. The whole world is getting fatter all at once, and work is one of the main culprits. Hey, are there any crullers left?

A new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study entitled "Time Use and Physical Activity: A Shift Away From Movement Across the Globe" explored human activity patterns since the 1960s and finds a global decline in human movement over the last 20-or-so years. It's not just us anymore! Everyone, everywhere is getting down with their bad, sedentary selves!

In fact, the British are now more lazy than we Americans, according to the study -- just another reason to wave a small "Fabrique En Chine" Fourth of July flag this year. Speaking of China, the study finds the Chinese and the Brazilians have "the two highest absolute and relative rates of decline in total physical activity" of anywhere in the world. The world may not be singing in perfect harmony yet, but it sure is sitting in unison on its ever-widening can.

Sitting in front of computer screens is to blame, of course, but so is everything from washing machines and rice cookers to microwaves to buying our food instead of growing it. Thanks to modern conveniences, no one, anywhere has to do much anymore. The best could be yet to come, however, as everyone around the world starts sleep-working through life:

The study makes projections, given continuation of the current trends, for the levels of activity in the five countries in 2020 and 2030. The forecasts are bleak. Using a physiological measure called metabolic equivalent of task (MET), which describes the amount of energy spent in accomplishing a task, the study determined that by 2020, the average American adult will expend about 190 MET hours per week. In comparison, a person who slept 24 hours in a day would expend 151 MET hours per week, and an active adult who did vigorous activity for 30 minutes to an hour every day, but otherwise had a desk job, would expend between 240 and 265 MET-hours per week.

People in Britain will reach the 190 MET hours level by 2030. Those in China and Brazil will continue on a steeper downward trend, reaching the U.S. and U.K. physical activity levels by 2030. The situation in India appears less severe, but the average of the levels masks the stark socioeconomic dichotomy likely to continue in India, with wealthier Indians leading lifestyles similar to those of the British.

So the world spins while we sit and get fatter and try not to fall asleep. Didn't the nation's paper of record already say this a year ago? Be strong and refuse to eat "just half" of a second doughnut while you type, m'kay?


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