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‘Fit-Fat’ Countries: U.S and Brazil Lead Global Fitness and Obesity Markets

The U.S. and Brazil are two largely populated countries that may be more related than one can ever guess – in an impressive way – at least when it comes to body-health-related markets, reveals Corpometria Obesity Prevention Institute.

Data from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association show that Brazil has the second-largest number of gyms and gym members in the world, only behind the USA. Brazil is also among the countries with the fastest-growing obesity rates, holds the fifth-largest number of obese people and it has the second-largest weight-loss drugs and bariatric surgery markets.

“A surprising comparison shows that the United States and Brazil share a remarkable and almost identical characteristic: the coexistence of a large prevalence of obesity and a strong culture of fitness, strict healthy eating and a sort of body worship. This coexistence seems to be unique to these two countries, while present at a lesser extent in Mexico, Canada, South Africa, Australia and Argentina,” evaluates the endocrinologist Flávio Cadegiani, MD, MSc, Ph.D., at Corpometria Institute, the first obesity prevention center in Latin America.

Dr. Flavio Cadegiani – Brazilian Endocrinologist

Another common point between the U.S. and Brazil is the war against the balance. In the United States, obesity affects 39.6 percent of the population, according to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics in the United States published in 2017. Brazil, although not as high as the United States, is in the midst of an epidemic of the disease. According to data from the Ministry of Health of Brazil surveyed in 2018, in 12 years, obesity increased by 60 percent in the country.

“After the USA, the largest market for CrossFit, Brazil has the second-largest number of ‘certified’ CrossFit boxes. The two countries also move the success of the Arnold Sports Festival – the largest multi-sport event aimed at body image not so popular in Europe, for example. On the other hand, Brazil also holds a great position in a number of bariatric procedures, particularly when taken into account the number of obese subjects. Joining fatness and fitness, Brazil performs the second-largest number of aesthetical plastic surgeries in the world, losing to the USA,” explains doctor Flávio Cadegiani.

According to the IHRS Association report, in 2017, health club membership topped 174 million consumers around the globe. Total industry revenue totaled an estimated $87.2 billion in 2017 and the club count exceeded 200,000 facilities. As leading markets posted strong performance, emerging markets — particularly in the Asia-Pacific region — showed potential for continued growth.

From a perspective of comparisons with other countries, those that present a larger number of gyms and gym members, particularly when adjusted for mean income, also yields a larger prevalence of overweight and obesity. Contrariwise, European countries disclose a lower prevalence of obesity, while also have a lower number of gym affiliates. Europeans tend to have more outdoor activities. This is another example of the unexpected link between fitness and fatness levels, similar to the phenomenon observed in the USA, Brazil and Mexico.

Like in Europe, more developed Asian countries, such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, have a weaker culture of body sculpting, while they also have a lower prevalence of obesity (although this is also emerging in these countries). “In the end, body-conscious countries tend to show a dual oppositely extreme effect on body shape. Or is it the culture of superlatives that led to this figure? That’s something we need to investigate better to advance in the obesity prevention knowledge and to understand the culture of the practice of physical exercise impacts,” argues doctor Flávio Cadegiani.

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