Grandmas get fit as world gets fat

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 September, 2011, 12:00am

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What a tonic that hardy band of Hong Kong women who have become black belts in taekwondo in the autumn of their lives should be to us all. But their achievement should also serve as a warning.

The seven women aged 63 to 74 mastered the Korean martial art in the city's first lessons for the elderly. The news comes in the wake of stark words from Hong Kong health chief turned World Health Organisation head Dr Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, that the global problem of obesity - fuelled by fast food and a sedentary lifestyle - has reached crisis levels.

Indeed it has. Only those who do not want to see can have failed to notice the steady rise in tubbiness among our children and the ever-increasing push by marketers to get us to eat more, drink more and spend more. Frugality has become a dirty word in a globalised world where consumption - for those who can afford it - is king.

Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980, the WHO says. More than 40 million pre-school children and over half the urban dwellers in some countries are obese or overweight, Chan recently told the UN.

Hong Kong is no exception. City health chiefs say 39 per cent of people in general, and 48 per cent when it comes to men, are overweight. A worrying 15 per cent of hospital admissions are obesity-linked.

One of the elderly band of martial artists, hard-hitting 74-year-old Lam Sai-mui, was an inspiration when she told the Post that the main challenge was not physical, but mental, because she had to memorise all the moves.

Sadly, if our children continue to see consumption as king, the reverse may be true for them when they reach Lam's grand old age. That is, if they make it into their 70s.