If you’ve tuned in to the news during the last 36 hours, you’ve seen a story listing ten unconventional influences on obesity in America. Twenty scientists sifted through a hundred studies evaluating contributors to obesity — other than diet and exercise — and determined that ten factors not frequently associated with excess body weight may play a role. They range from the obvious (smoking cessation) to the not-so-obvious (air conditioning).
Admittedly, it would be easy to get carried away with the hype and overstate the importance of these findings. But they’re worth bringing up to point out that the science behind obesity is more complex than is commonly imagined. We’ve noted this fact in our book An Epidemic of Obesity Myths, and this new report only hammers home the need for caution in crafting strategies (whether individual, community-based, or political) meant to combat obesity.
At least three of the cited factors, however, do seem to reemphasize the importance of physical activity. Lack of sleep may lead to diminished physical activity. Air conditioning makes it much easier to sit and work at a desk all day. And the increased proportion of middle-aged and elderly Americans are less likely to do as much physical activity as when they were younger.