Switzerland: At the recent World Economic Forum (WEF), health, nutrition and fitness experts highlighted that encouraging physical activity will play a critical role in the global fight against obesity. Experts who participated in an open debate entitled War against Obesity on 26 January discussed the complexity of the obesity challenge, the global trends contributing to overweight and obesity and what steps can be taken to help tackle this growing issue.

Speaking as a panellist during the debate, Lisa MacCallum Carter from Nike said that the world is facing an “inactivity crisis” as a result of changing lifestyles and increasingly urban populations. She noted that “significant amounts of daily exercise from incidental movement had been lost” and highlighted research showing that in just under half a generation, the Chinese have become 45 per cent less active.

Pointing out the significant impact inactivity can have on people’s health and wellbeing, MacCallum called for more to be done to restore physical activity in people’s daily lives saying: “On the nutrition side, this is being looked at in a very sophisticated way, but we’re certainly not resolving the physical activity crisis.”

During the debate, the panellists also highlighted the need for a collaborative approach where governments and the industry can work together to raise nutritional literacy to enable people to make informed diet choices.

FIA Executive Director, Bev Postma, agrees that both nutritional education and physical activity have a critical role to play in tackling overweight and obesity.

“With changing diets and more sedentary lifestyles, the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that the growing problem of overweight and obesity is a product of both diet and physical inactivity and it is clear that both areas must be a focus in developing a solution.

“If we are to really move the dial, we need a multi-faceted approach that addresses education physical activity, nutrition labelling and food innovation.”

Ms Postma added that countries in Asia have been making encouraging progress.

“Countries in the region are responding to this challenge. Last year, the Federation of Thai Industries worked together with the Thai Food and Drug Administration to organise a Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) roadshow to help educate consumers about GDA front-of-pack labels. More recently in January this year, the Ministry of Health in Malaysia launched the Healthy Lifestyle with Skipping Project ,” she said.

Ms Postma added that she strongly supports the WEF experts’ view that a ‘whole of society’ response that includes “individuals, companies and governments” is needed to tackle obesity.