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Sedentary lifestyle, lack of public parks among factors blamed for rising obesity levels

By Rayya Al Muheisen - Mar 18,2023 - Last updated at Mar 20,2023

Representative image (Photo courtesy of unsplash)

AMMAN — As the prevalence of obesity, especially among children, is on the rise, mainly attributed to a sedentary lifestyle, many blame that a lack of public parks, proper sidewalks and recreational spaces further exacerbate the problem.

Raed Shboul, secretary-general at the Ministry of Health, said during the launch of the second edition of “Ramadan and Diabetes” scientific day on Thursday that obesity is posing a health threat for many Jordanians of different age groups, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported. 

“Over 60 per cent of people living in Jordan are overweight or obese,” Shboul added. 

Over 27 per cent of children aged between 6 and 12 are obese and overweight, Al Mamlaka TV reported citing a micronutrient deficiency survey. 

“Almost 69 per cent of women and 53 per cent of men in Jordan suffer from obesity,” Shboul added, noting that over 25 per cent of Jordanians are physically inactive. 

Nutritionist Sarah Ayesh told The Jordan Times that obesity is a medical condition that can be attributed to multiple factors. 

“Obesity results from inherited, physiological and environmental factors, combined with poor food choices and sometimes absence of physical activity and exercise,” Ayesh added. 

Obesity is a cosmetic concern for many. However, most importantly it's a medical problem that increases the risk of many diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, she said.

“On a very simple level, a person’s weight depends on the number of calories they consume, how many of those calories are stored, and how many are burned,” Ayesh added. 

However, each of these factors is influenced by a combination of genes and environmental factors, Ayesh said.

On the other hand, many people attribute high obesity levels to the lack of public parks that give people a chance to exercise.

Shatha Mustafa, a mother of two, told The Jordan Times that access to parks, walking trails  and recreational facilities are very limited in Jordan. 

“Access to these places provides both adults and children with the opportunity to exercise and be physically active,” Mustafa added. 

Mustafa said that for her daughters to be physically active she has to sign them up in sports classes, which cost a “fortune”. 

“Sidewalks are turning into parking lots, in addition to trees being planted, making it impossible to even go for a walk,” Mustafa added. 

Ahmad Bustami, a father of three, said that “obesity prevention is a luxury now in Jordan. It requires healthier food options, which is a very expensive and, in some cases, non-existing choice for low-income group”.

Bustami added that healthy food options mean that the food brought from the supermarket has to be fresh, organic and not processed. “This means your grocery bill will at least double,” Bustami said. 

“A healthier diet, as well as increased physical activity accompanied by behaviour changes can definitely help a person lose weight,” Ayesh added. 

Ayesh stated that prescription medications and weight-loss procedures are additional options for treating obesity. 

“Weight-loss medications and procedures shouldn’t be the first options for a person to consider, and a patient has to consult a specialised doctor before taking medication,” Ayesh said.

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