New Brunswick

N.B. is the fattest province: health council

The fitness levels of New Brunswickers are among the worst in Canada, according to a new report.
Stephane Robichaud, president and chief executive officer of the New Brunswick Health Council, said New Brunswick lags behind all other Canadian provinces and territories in physical fitness. (CBC)

The New Brunswick Health Council says New Brunswick is the fattest province in the country.

The independent health council's latest snapshot of the province's health, released on Wednesday, indicates that New Brunswickers are lagging behind the rest of the country in fitness and health.

Stéphane Robichaud, the council's president and chief executive officer, said 28.5 per cent of adults in the province are considered obese, 11 percentage points higher than the national average.

"We rank 13th out the provinces and territories, so in the last position," Robichaud said. "We already know Canada is not doing very well. So we're the worst province of a country that is already not doing very well."

The Restigouche area in northern New Brunswick is the most obese region, with 40.3 per cent of adults reporting an unhealthy weight compared to 23.7 per cent of Saint John residents who report an unhealthy body weight.

The report also said that 49.3 per cent of New Brunswickers say they are moderately active in their free time compared to the national average of 52.5 per cent. The Miramichi region is reported to be the most inactive and the Saint John region is highlighted as the most active.

New Brunswick also reports higher rates of emotional and physical pain.

"So we're not doing very well when it comes to physical or mental health. But also if you look at pain or soreness preventing physical activities, we're at the bottom of the pack for that one," Robichaud said.

"So, we're not feeling great. We're not feeling good physically, we're not feeling good mentally, and we're hurting."

In the last five years, New Brunswick's rates of hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease have all risen.

Robichaud said the lower fitness levels can lead to lower productivity in the workplace.

'A very low point here'

They can also lead to more strain on the provincial health-care system.

"Then there are complications, pain, soreness, that are preventing people from being active," Robichaud said.

"So, we're starting from a very low point here."

The council's report also includes a statistic that might surprise many people who don't have a family physician.

The numbers show that more than 90 per cent of New Brunswick residents have a regular doctor, which is the second-highest percentage in the country.

But Robichaud said the good news brought by a high number of people having access to a doctor is greeted by a downside as well.

Robichaud said an increasingly out-of-shape population means more trips to the doctor and more money funnelled into the health system.