A study found that Bangladesh is facing the ‘dual burden' of both malnutrition and obesity. The study calculated and compared body mass index (BMI) among children, adolescents, and adults from 1975 to 2016, and it shows that the obesity rate is 17 per cent for adults but only 4.5 per cent for children.
According to the WHO-Diabetes country profile of Bangladesh in 2016, physical inactivity was prevalent among 25.1 per cent of the population. This is an alarming scenario for the country.
This scribe talked to Minhaz Remo, a performance and strength coach and a martial artist regarding fitness issues. He is a certified strength and sports nutrition coach through the International Sports Science Association. He is also a 2nd-degree black belt in ITF Taekwondo, winning several gold medals in national tournaments.
Regarding the causes of the growing obesity in the urban youth population of the country, Minhaz Remo thinks the problem lies with the way physical education is being taught in the country.
“The Physical Education books are not designed to make the subject interesting to the students, and it creates a distaste for physical activities."
"The books have so much information about the rules and regulations of outdoor games, which we can hardly play in urban environments, and little information about free-hand exercise and personal fitness,” he said.
“Also, most of the teachers are not very enthusiastic about their student's physical well-being, and so the urban youth are moving away from sports and physical activities. Society does not encourage being physically fit from a young age, making children potato couches.”
Physical fitness is a broad idea, and it is often underappreciated in our society. For most of us, being fit and healthy means being muscular and beefed up. However, it is not the case most of the time. Minhaz Remo thinks that this perception needs to change first.
“There is hardly any organisation that educates people about staying fit. So we do not have any idea that fitness is necessary for our daily lives as well."
"The sad truth is, we mostly hit the gym to impress others with a chiselled body, but not out of love for our own body. Staying fit does not require a muscular body, it takes only effort and love for your own body."
The ones most neglectful of their physical wellbeing are the young people joining the workforce in various corporate or government jobs. Rigorous work hours, undisciplined food habits, long hours sitting at their desks, and lack of movement affect their health, and their performance begins to decline before forty.
“There is a term called 'The Law of Disuse," Minhaz Remo said of the effect of such negligence, "Which means you are going to lose the part of the body that you do not use much. So, if you do not flex the muscles of your heart, your heart will begin to lose functionality."
"That is why we see so many cardiovascular patients today. Children as young as eighteen are being diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension. Can you believe it? That is a bad sign for the future.”
One of the most alarming aspects of the whole situation is that there is no organisation to educate people about the woes of obesity and the importance of staying fit. Minhaz Remo thinks such organisations need to be created to educate people, as the situation will get worse in the future.
So what needs to be done to counter such alarming trends?
Remo thinks that the most effective way to combat obesity and create an interest in physical fitness is to educate people.
“Companies provide employees with health insurance with high premiums but not any fitness training guidance. Such is the culture these days. Everyone should make time for their body."
"I find it very perplexing that we take care of our belongings so thoroughly, but when it comes to our body, we are so neglectful," he sighed.
"We do not try to fix our car by watching YouTube videos, but we watch YouTube videos hoping that we can fix our body like that. Doing free-hand exercises is easy and simple, so awareness should be created to encourage people to work out.”
In his words, healthy citizens mean a healthy workforce and a highly efficient citizenry will take the country a long way.