With another exciting baseball season about to get underway, some of your favourite baseball players are calling for families to go outside and play a few games themselves -- and for good reason.
Over the years, fighting obesity has become particularly important in the United States and Canada, where obesity is now the leading cause of preventable death. Over the last two decades, the number of people who are overweight has skyrocketed in the two countries.
In America, it is estimated that as much as 35 percent of adults are obese, prompting many health officials and advocates to declare an epidemic. These numbers are similar in Canada where 14,222,521 of the 35 million Canadians identified themselves as overweight or obese in 2014.
Combatting obesity is especially important because it can lead to a range of health-related problems, including stress, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and strain on the heart and internal organs.
While meal portion size and abundance has been one contributing factor in Americans gaining weight, a report last year from Toronto indicates the Canadian Food Guide, a resource given out in schools and frequently referred to by dieticians, may have actually contributed to the mass amount of Canadians gaining weight.
Canadians have, on the whole, followed their food guidelines,” said Nina Teicholz, a science journalist. “Everything that’s supposed to be up is up and everything that’s supposed to be down is down. The evidence shows the public has complied and has got fatter and sicker.”
By refocusing our attention from what we eat to how we move, we can begin to actively fight for a reduction in obesity numbers and untimely deaths.
Due to its universal appeal on both sides of the Canadian-U.S. border, baseball is being touted as one of the sports that can help reduce obesity levels and lead to a healthier, more active society.
As part of her Lets Move initiative, former First Lady Michelle Obama also called on baseball organizations and players to help get the word out about the positive impact the sport can have on people’s health. The national public service campaign, which consisted of 30 radio and 30 television commercials, featured each MLB team and was a united effort.
The campaign, which has been hailed a national success for its broad reach and inclusivity, has helped to encourage Americans to think about their health, and according to Rick Burton, professor of sport management at Syracuse University, the campaign was ingenious because of its simplicity.
“What’s encouraging is that the message was coming from the first lady, who happens to be a mother, and who’s supporting an issue that is similar to seat belts in the ’60s and smoking in the ’80s,” he said.
Piggybacking on this concept, Canada has created a 150 Playlist to celebrate the country’s sesquicentennial. Instead of 150 songs, the ParticipAction playlist calls on Canadians to do 150 activities to keep healthy and in shape. Fittingly, for the country that claims to have invented baseball in 1838, the list feature three baseball related activities, number 38 (softball), 77 (baseball), and 133 (Kickball).
The emphasis around baseball as part of a healthy lifestyle is welcome news to Tim Kendall, a Canadian baseball scout and coach. Kendall, who spent many years as a professional wrestler, has always lived an active lifestyle and believes adults need to find the time to make their health and well-being a priority.
“I think a lot of people have replaced outdoor time and activity with smartphones and binge watching TV, making them less active than ever,” said Tim Kendall, baseball scout. “Joining an adult sports league is great because you get the physical activity you need and you meet people with the same interests as you.”
Tim Kendall recommends signing up for activities that you like - that way, even after a long day at work, you are more likely to go to practice or a game because you enjoy it.
Governments also have a role to play to help residents get their weight in check and improve their health. EatRight Ontario, a provincial program established to provide health tips and links to residents, offers some advice to get all family members motivated and living their best life.
1. Limit the amount of time spent watching TV and interacting with digital devices
2. Organize group outings, such as hiking, biking, swimming, skiing or a game of baseball
3. Try new activities
4. Adopt healthy eating habits and eat an array of colorful, healthy foods
Combatting obesity in the coming decades will be increasingly important as populations in both Canada and U.S. rapidly age. As the baby boomers age and health problems put a strain on healthcare systems, both countries will be unable to balance the needs of the elderly population and the widespread health issues of obese citizens.