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If you live in Newbury, a new study says chances are that you are of average weight

MR and Mrs Newbury might be of average body weight for the UK, according to a new study, but there's little cause for celebration as according to NHS guidelines they are still overweight.

The study, conducted by Nuffield Health – the UK's largest healthcare charity – shows the average man in Newbury to be 5ft 9in and tipping the scales at 14 stone 7 pounds, while the average woman is 5ft 4in and weighs a full 12 stone 8 pounds.

These figures puts the average body mass index, an indicator for body fat, at 25.6, which is above the Government's guidelines of between 18.5 and 25.

Nuffield Health spokeswoman Helen Cook says this places Newbury as average for the UK.

Newbury doctor, James Cave of the Downlands Practice responded to the study by saying: “Obesity is everywhere and West Berkshire is not immune to it. It is probably the single most important health issue we have in the western world at the moment.”

He added that there were lots of hidden health problems associated with obesity: “People understand the risks involved with things like heart disease and stroke, but what many don't realise is that it also increases the risk of cancer.”

He said that putting on four stone was almost as bad for the body as being a smoker.

“Unfortunately we live in a society where unhealthy food is cheaper than healthy food and it is difficult for people to maintain their weight,” said Dr Cave, but he added that people had to accept responsibility for their own health: “The bottom line is people have to do more exercise and consume less, there is not easy fix or magic pill that can bring people's weight back to normal.”

Richard McCrann of the local primary care trust (PCT), NHS Berkshire West, said that while the number of obese adults in West Berkshire remains below the UK average, obesity is a growing problem.

“Obesity levels in general are rising nationally which can lead to a greater risk of people developing heart disease, diabetes and higher blood pressure. It is important to recognise that only a five per cent reduction in body weight reduces the risk of people developing heart disease and diabetes or having a stroke,” he said.

Mr McCrann added that more than 80 per cent of people in the district are not getting enough exercise.

Dr Cave, however, stressed that getting enough exercise does not necessarily mean joining a gym: “People can exercise anywhere, all they need to do is park their cars a bit further from work and walk, or go outside and enjoy the rural environment we live in. It is small lifestyle changes that can make a big difference in our lives.”

The PCT runs a weight management programme, Eat4Health, which provides information and help for people to manage their weight.

Anyone can join the programme and there is no need to be referred through a GP.

Further information on the programme is available at www.berkshirewest.nhs.uk/e4h, where a video with tips for healthy living can also be viewed.

* To find out what the people of Newbury think about keeping fit, pick up a copy of this week's Newbury Weekly News.

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