Why are more men fat than women?

Men were built for fitness, not fatness.
Men were built for fitness, not fatness. Photo: iStock

I’m the kind of personal trainer that loves helping people lose weight, and I wish I could hug and squeeze the excess fat out of every Australian so they could find a happier and healthier lifestyle. 

But when the stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics are showing men (65 per cent overweight or obese in the 24 to 34-year-old range, and 74 per cent in the 35 to 44 range) are fatter than women (42 and 55 per cent respectively), it looks like I’ll be needing to hand out a lot more man-hugs to reduce Australia’s weight problem from its current critical levels.

It leaves me with one simple question - why?  As a general rule men can run faster, lift more weight, and have a faster metabolism than women.  So, why are men still fatter? 

Here’s why:

More sedentary workforce

James Levine, a doctor who for 25 years has studied the science of sitting, wrote a book called Get up! Why Your Chair is Killing You. His simple conclusions? Chairs help make you fatter and weaken your bones, while increasing the risk of diabetes, heart attacks, cancer, and depression.

The University of Queensland’s research is even more alarming. It found that sitting is the new smoking, as every hour in front of the television cuts about 22 minutes from your lifespan. Smokers, meanwhile, only decrease their lifespan by 11 minutes with every dart they suck on.

With the high proportion of men in white-collared roles who spend all day in front of a computer, the message is pretty obvious - sit less, move more.  If you sit all day in front of a computer and all night in front of a TV, getting to the gym is that much more important.  Alternatively, make the changes you need to walk 10,000 steps per day.

Because men can

I might get my chops busted for saying this, but I’ll push political correctness aside and throw it out there – men are overweight because they can be. 

I don’t know how or when it started, but everything I see on TV and in magazines proves society is more accepting of a man being overweight than a woman.  An overweight man can still be viewed as an alpha male, potential father, and attractive provider, whereas an overweight female is judged more by her weight than her substance. 

An overweight male actor or musician seems acceptable, yet an overweight female is deemed less marketable, or pushed towards heavily stereotyped roles. A study reported in Business Insider confirmed what we are paid is often linked to such generalisations.

Laziness

Mental health affects the physical, with Robin Williams the most recent Hollywood reminder of that just last week.  And while there are some mental issues that affect men putting on weight, laziness is an ailment we can all turn around.  Stats show men prefer beer to water, the couch to the stairs, and Game Of Thrones to time in the gym.

Chris Ryan is a software professional in Victoria who no longer allows laziness to affect his weight, health and his life.  He told me: “Six years of lazy choices like 1-2 pies and chocolate milk for breakfast, $20 pub lunches, and a half-slab of beer per night with no veggies in sight resulted in tipping the scales at 142kg. Instead of video games and shit television, I reversed my lifestyle of laziness by educating myself on healthy foods, and a combination of proposing to my girlfriend and your ‘Cut the BS’ eBook motivated me to make a lifestyle change.”

I’m thrilled this little column made a difference in Chris’s life, and when I asked him how he’s going, he told me he’s down from 142kgs to 109kgs and was at the gym at 6am this morning.

Here’s a Boot Camp Man Test, to make sure you’re moving towards some physical goals:

1. Strength. You should be able to do 20 push-ups, because men should have arm and chest strength.

2. Core. Drop to your elbows and toes, and perform a plank for 1-2 minutes. A strong core is the root system for a strong body.

3. Sex. Perform a Tabata circuit of burpees.  If you can finish four minutes of high-intensity movements, you can finish off a quality session in the sack.

4. Stairs. Run 500 stairs at a challenging pace, because anaerobic fitness is just as important as a long run.

5. Dog test. Jog five kilometres at a decent pace with your dog, because man’s body was built to run and to take his best friend with him.

We men can start this country’s healthy change because we have it easier - our bodies are designed to carry 10 to 15 per cent body fat whereas women typically carry 18-20 per cent. 

By 2025, one study predicts 83 per cent of men will be overweight.  I pity the future Health Minister and Prime Minister who will be faced with a country needing to annually spend hundreds of millions of dollars (and rising every year) on health care - all because we don’t care enough about our own weight.

Men like Chris Ryan are changing for the good – more blokes should follow his lead.

Why do you think men are fatter than women? What are you willing to do to make a difference?

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