Free Sedentary Behavior/Lifestyle Is Not The Leading Cause Argumentative Essay Sample

Type of paper: Argumentative Essay

Topic: Obesity, Social Issues, Food, Overweight, People, Health, Time, Weight

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2023/02/22

of the Obesity Epidemic in the U.S.


The problem of obesity and overweight is very important in the U.S. and worldwide and the number of obese people is constantly growing. There are many risks for health associated with obesity, such as diabetes, heart diseases, hypertension, cancer and even death. The problem has many causes, e.g. unhealthy nutrition, fast food advertising, watching TV and sitting in front of PC for a long time, genetics, and etc. It is difficult to compare the BMI norms in the U.S. with the other countries for many reasons. However, the U.S. is among the countries that face the problem of obesity epidemic during the last several decades very seriously.
The researchers do not have a single opinion regarding the most important cause of obesity. Except for the above-mentioned factors, obesity may be caused also by environmental, socio-economic reasons, by medicines and even depression. However, many researchers name an absence of healthy diet to be one of the most important causes for obesity in both children and adults. The factors like sedentary lifestyle, office work, spending much time in front of TV are not considered to be as significant as unhealthy nutrition.
Key words: obesity, overweight, obesity reasons, sedentary lifestyle
of the Obesity Epidemic in the U.S.
Nowadays the number of obese people in the U.S. is constantly increasing and obesity epidemic is a global issue already. There are a lot of different factors that influence this process. One of the most important questions for professionals dealing with the obesity is how to prevent or stop it. The researchers pay much attention to the studying of obesity causes and factors that may lead to it directly or indirectly, as knowing the origin of the problem significantly helps to find the ways of its prevention. Some obesity causes are obvious, but some provoke the discussion whether or not they are significant in relation to the body mass’s increase. According to the most researchers, the leading role belongs to nutrition, its quality, schedule, etc. However, there are a lot of other factors that are considered to make negative influence upon the weight of the individuals. Sometime people and researchers blame, for example, sedentary lifestyle, saying that it is the leading obesity cause nowadays. In this essay I am going to identify the causes of obesity and to find out, which of them are most significant and try to understand whether sedentary lifestyle is a leading cause of obesity epidemic in the U.S.
First of all, it is necessary to know when individuals (children and adults) can be considered as obese. According to Anderson & Butcher (n.d.), overweight and obesity means having a body-mass-index (BMI) above the certain point. BMI means the individual’s weight in kg divided by height in squared meters (kg/m2). According to the National Institutes of Health guidelines, an underweight adult has BMI that is lower than 18.5, in case his BMI makes 25 or more he is overweight, and in case his BMI is 30 or more he is obese.
Obesity is a problem not only in the United States. However, the comparisons of obesity trends and rates between countries are complicated in these rates, as obesity’s defining is complicated. BMI cannot be compared in various countries as the relationship between height and weight and fatness can differs for individuals in various environments. For instance, some nationalities may just have denser composition of body than others (Anderson & Butcher, n.d.).
Some researchers define globalization among the causes of obesity epidemic. Globalization has afforded life quality’s improvements for many people; it has also made reachable many kinds of cheap foods that are high in energy and low in nutritional value, promoted the processed foods and sweetened beverages’ consumption, and increased people residing in urban environments proportion with infrastructures that contribute to sedentary lifestyles. Such changes are causing the global epidemic of obesity (Malik, Willett & Hu, 2012).
According to Jeffords (n.d.), the risks of obesity can be classified in the following way: health risks (diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death); obesity increases the possibility of osteoarthritis, hypertension, dyslipidemia, gallstones, psychological/psychosocial issues and musculoskeletal issues (Jeffords, n.d.). According to 'Overweight and Obesity Statistics' (2012), health risks of obesity and overweight are also as follows: high blood pressure, heart disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (inflammation and excess fat in the liver of people who drink no alcohol or little), osteoarthritis (a disease causing swelling, pain, and stiffness in joints), some cancer types: colon, endometrial, breast (connected with the uterine lining), and kidney; stroke.

Causes of Obesity and Overweight

Obesity and overweight result from an imbalance of energy. The body requires a certain quantity of energy from food (calories) to manage basic functions of life. Body weight usually remains on the same level when the quantity of eaten calories equals the calories number the body burns or uses. Sometimes, when people drink and eat more calories than they need, they begin gaining weight, become obesity and overweight.
Balance of energy in children takes place when the energy amount taken in from drink or food and the energy consumed by the body contribute to the growth and do not cause gain of excess weight. A number of various factors may lead to weight gain and energy imbalance. They include eating habits, genes, where and how people live, emotions and attitudes, income and life habits, and etc. ('Overweight and Obesity Statistics', 2012).
The main causes of obesity are genetics; lack of exercise; socioeconomic factors; additional factors (sleep, pollution, medication, depression); eating disorders; family influences; food advertising and office-work influences (Jeffords, n.d.). And, as stated above, globalization and its various consequences (mainly economic and environmental) are also among the significant factors causing obesity. Thus, the researchers do not put the sedentary lifestyle at the top of the obesity causes’ list. It is necessary to find out what is its position in comparison with the other causes. There is no single obesity and overweight cause. There is no unique approach that can help treat or prevent obesity and overweight. Treatment can consist of a behavioral treatment mix, exercise, diet, and sometimes drugs promoting weight-loss. Sometimes in the difficult cases of obesity, surgery of weight-loss can be an option also ('Overweight and Obesity Statistics', 2012).
According to Tompson et al. (2013), there are both environmental factors and individual factors causing rates of obesity’s increase that are largely outside the control of the individual. Factors of individual-level are among the most important reasons of the problems with obesity, including spending a lot of time in front of computers and TV (82%), the fact that individuals are not willing to change themselves (64%), and that individuals do not have information how to control their body weight (52%). Other significant reasons are generally out of the individual’s control, for example, that fast food is not expensive and easily reachable (75%) and that there is a lot of unhealthy foods, drinks and snacks advertising (51%).
Some demographic factors are also considered to be the obesity causes, including age, gender, and race. Women are likely to mention cost factors, 52% of women admit that the healthy foods’ high cost is a main reason of overweight problem in the United States, in comparison with 37% of men stating the same. Women also attribute obesity to cheap fast food; 82% of women state that it is a significant reason in comparison with 69% of men. Women are more likely to admit a cause of too much time spent in front of TV (76% of men, 89% of women), a lot of advertisements for unhealthy foods (46% of men, 57% of women) and a lack of food ingredients information (34% of men, 45% of women) (Tompson et al., 2013).
Younger adults rarely put the blame for obesity on long hours of TV watching time. 73% of people under the age of 30 years old state that it is the main obesity cause in comparison with more than 80% among older individuals. Respondents older than 50 years old are more likely than younger ones to name too many unhealthy foods advertisements to be the reason of overweight. 60% of those over 50 years old say that such ads is a major reason for the obesity, in comparison with 45% of those younger than 50 years old. People over 50 years old also tend to attribute the unhealthy food, drinks and snacks sale in schools as a major obesity cause. 53% of those older than 50 years old state that unhealthy meals in schools are obesity problem’s major reason, in comparison with 40% of people under 50 years old.
Blacks more often than whites attribute an insufficient knowledge about weight control as a significant reason for the obesity problems of the country. 63% of blacks say that people do not know the methods of their weight control as a main reason for the issue, in comparison with 48% of whites (Tompson et al., 2013).
Physical activity is very important for both children and adults. Educators are trying to promote this way of spending time, however, now there are a lot of factors keeping people at home. According to Hassapidou et al. (2013), the lack of physical activity (PA) is a reason of a negative balance of fat and energy, as it increases an expenditure of energy fat oxidation, as it is widely known that fat oxidation insufficiency is correlated with becoming obese. Apart from obesity prevention, a significant role in the cardiometabolic risk factors like T2DM, HTN and dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular disease prevention belongs to exercise. Active aerobic exercising (e.g. jogging, fast walking, cycling, racket games or swimming) during spare time proved to protect individuals against heart attacks and coronary heart disease (CHD) in middle- and old-age periods (Hassapidou et al., 2013).
According to the authors’ findings, applying solely to men, even few time of walking was associated with lower risk of being obese, while walking in the large amounts was associated with significantly decreased risk of obesity. However, in women, engagement in the physical activities for more than 4 hours per week only was associated with decreased obesity risk (Hassapidou et al., 2013).
Factors related to lifestyle, such as sedentary behavior, dietary habits and physical activity play a significant role in obesogenic environment’s creating. The pattern of food consumption has extremely changed over the recent decades worldwide. During this years, the refined sugar and animal products intake has increased dramatically while the vegetables and fruit and complex carbohydrates intake has decreased. Additionally, fast foods that offer calorie-dense meals are largely consumed by the young people in different countries. In the study of Al-Hazzaa, Abahussain, Al-Sobayel, Qahwaji & Musaiger (2012) there was not much association between the obesity and frequency of fast food intake. In the models of logistic regression, intake of fast food, together with some other variables, was correlated highly with other independent factors of lifestyle. The size of fast food portion that was not accounted for by the authors in their study can appear to be a significant factor and provide impact on the association between obesity and the frequency of consumption of the fast food. Also, it was noticed that consumption of the fast food increased markedly while skipping breakfast frequency decreased during the adolescence to adulthood transition, and the above-mentioned dietary behaviors were connected to the weight gain during the corresponding period. Frequent snacks and fast food’s consumption was associated with obesity and overweight among the adolescents and Chinese children (Al-Hazzaa, Abahussain, Al-Sobayel, Qahwaji & Musaiger, 2012). A recent research regarding the role of vegetable and fruit intake in adults and children’s obesity found that increased vegetable and fruit consumption contributed to lower adiposity among obese or overweight adults, but it was not the same among children. At the same time, longitudinal overweight adults studies proved marked associations between slower weight gain and increased consumption of vegetables and fruits, but only one half of the longitudinal studies of children showed high inverse associations between intake of vegetable and fruit and obesity. In this study, the authors found a comparatively high association between low vegetable (not fruit) intake and having abdominal obesity odds. The way by which vegetable and fruit intake can reduce the possibility of becoming obese is not clearly understood, however, it could be connected with the healthy habits’ clustering effect. In the present study, intake of vegetables was correlated with breakfast consumption frequency and levels of physical activity (Al-Hazzaa, Abahussain, Al-Sobayel, Qahwaji & Musaiger, 2012).
Obesity is serious, costly and common. According to statistics, over one-third (78.6 million or 34.9%) of adults in the U.S. are obese. The annual estimated medical obesity cost in the U.S. in 2008 made $147 billion U.S. dollars; for obese people it was $1,429 higher than for people of with normal body weight (, 2014). Obesity is available in some groups of people more than in others. The highest age-adjusted obesity rates have Non-Hispanic blacks (47.8%), Hispanics (42.5%), non-Hispanic Asians (10.8%) and non-Hispanic whites (32.6%). The level of obesity among middle age adults (40-59 years old) is higher (39.5%) than among younger people (age 20-39) (30.3%) or over 60 adults (35.4%) (, 2014).
Socioeconomic status and obesity. Among Mexican-American and non-Hispanic black men, those with low incomes are less likely to be obese than those with high income. Low-income women are more likely to be obese than higher income women. There is no significant relationship between education level and obesity among men. However, among women, there is: less educated women are more likely to have problems with weight in comparison with those with educated women (, 2014).
Sedentary lifestyle and obesity. Coming back to the main question of this essay, let us see what researchers have identified regarding the relation between obesity and sedentary lifestyle. Around 25 years ago, Harvard’s research first linked watching TV to obesity. Later the researchers have confirmed the link between obesity and TV viewing in adults and children in different countries of the world. Reducing of TV-watching time may help with the control of weight. Thus, many organizations provided recommendations for teens and children to limit TV watching time at least to 2 hours per day ('Television Watching and “Sit Time”', n.d.). Here the researchers mentioned the activities that foresee much sitting time, e.g. watching TV, playing computer games, etc. However, the main reason of it is not a sedentary lifestyle itself, it is a secondary factor and a consequence of the above-mentioned activities.
It is true that too much sitting time (at home or at work) presents the risk of getting obese and also can increase the early death and chronic diseases risk. It is obvious that people who sit a lot of time usually spend less time for other activities; but levels of physical activity do not explain the relationship of sitting – health risk. However, it is unclear whether sitting is the culprit itself, or whether it is just another unhealthy lifestyle aspect’s marker. Also it is possible that other kinds of sedentary behaviors in different ways promote overeating: working or reading on the computer, for instance, may cause stress in people and overeating, at the same time, listening to music may be the factor that prevents people from noticing whether they want to eat or not. Thus, it does not seem to be reasonable to consider sedentary lifestyle to be the leading cause of obesity. Some evidence shows that recommendations aimed at sedentary behaviors’ reducing can be more effective than recommendations promoting physical activity. Sedentary behaviors, e.g. viewing of TV, adopted in childhood may also continue in the adulthood (Shields & Tremblay, 2008).
The large number of studies shows that a significant individuals’ percentage living in the developed countries tend to follow a sedentary lifestyle. Around 30% of the population in England reports no or little physical activity during the leisure-time, while in the USA the corresponding percentage reaches 50%. During the recent few decades there has been an extreme change to non-manual office work from manual work. It has been reported previously that 50% of, for example, Greek people were inactive physically, while men were more active compared to women. In a study that engaged nine countries, only 50% of men and 30% of women were moderately active or active. The goal of the authors’ study was to research the association between sedentary lifestyle and physical activity patterns and the obesity and overweight prevalence and also their metabolic comorbidities, like hypercholesterolemia (HCE), T2DM and HTN in adults (Hassapidou et al., 2013).


Having analyzed the causes of obesity and circumstances leading to its appearance, it is possible to say that some of them are more and others are less significant. In my opinion, one of the most serious reasons for becoming overweight both for children and adults is unhealthy food. Fast food, sweetened beverages and not eating family meals very often lead to obesity. Globalization and other economic processes have made such food cheap and easily reachable for people and advertising of them also contribute to high level of their consumption. The researchers’ data confirms this opinion. Many of them report the malnutrition is the main reason of obesity.


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Anderson, P., & Butcher, K. Childhood Obesity: Trends and Potential Causes. Dartmouth College, 2-34. Retrieved from,. (2014). Obesity and Overweight for Professionals: Data and Statistics: Adult Obesity - DNPAO - CDC. Retrieved 8 April 2015, from
Hassapidou, M., Papadopoulou, S., Vlahavas, G., Kapantais, E., Kaklamanou, D., & Pagkalos, I. et al. (2013). Association of physical activity and sedentary lifestyle patterns with obesity and cardiometabolic comorbidities in Greek adults: Data from the National Epidemiological Survey. HORMONES, 12(2), 266-273. Retrieved from
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Mushtaq, M., Gull, S., Mushtaq, K., Shahid, U., Shad, M., & Akram, J. (2011). Dietary behaviors, physical activity and sedentary lifestyle associated with overweight and obesity, and their socio-demographic correlates, among Pakistani primary school children. International Journal Of Behavioral Nutrition And Physical Activity, 8, 11-12. Retrieved from
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Shields, M., & Tremblay, M. (2008). Sedentary behaviour and obesity. Health Reports, 19(2), 19-26. Retrieved from
Television Watching and “Sit Time”. Harvard T.H. Chan. Retrieved from
Tompson, T., Benz, J., Agiesta, J., Brewer, K., Bye, L., Reimer, R., & Junius, D. (2013). Obesity in the United States: Public Perceptions. The Associated Press And NORC, 1-8. Retrieved from

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