Sporting nation = Obese nation

In the 2016 Olympics, USA won 121 medals (46 Gold). Great Britain won 67 medals (27 Gold). China won 70 medals (27 Gold).

So, are the Top 10 Medal winners the most Sporting Nations of the World? Are they the “Sporting Super Powers”?

Shouldn’t the World’s most Sporting Superpowers have a healthy, fit, physically active population that plays sports frequently?

2016 Summer Olympics Medal tally details here.

While medals are won by a small contingent of elite players representing the country, let’s see how the medal performance tallies with obesity levels in the country:

Great Britain obesity data taken as average of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland Source: Wikipedia & World Obesity Federation (

The Australian National Health Survey 2014-15 has these data points:

In 2014-15, 63.4% of Australian adults were overweight or obese (11.2 million people). This is similar to the prevalence of overweight and obesity in 2011-12 (62.8%) and an increase since 1995 (56.3%). Around one in four (27.4%) children aged 5-17 years were overweight or obese, similar to 2011-12 (25.7%). Let’s look at England

Source: Public Health England

Let’s see the data for the USA in more detail.

USA – The Sports Super Power of the World! The country that has won nearly twice the number of medals as Great Britain and 4 times as Australia.

The US Department of Health & Human Services website has this data:

75.1% of the adult population is considered overweight, obese or extremely obese.

From the website: “According to the pie graph, 31.2 percent of adults had BMIs under 24.9 and so were considered normal weight or underweight. Another 33.1 percent had BMIs from 25 to 29.9, and so they were considered overweight. The group with BMIs of 30 or higher—people considered to have obesity—amounted to 35.7 percent. Those considered to have extreme obesity, with BMIs of 40 or higher, amounted to 6.3 percent.”

Source: NHANES, 2009–2010

So….as per their government data, 75.1% of the population of the World’s Biggest Sporting Superpower is over-weight or obese? 63% of Australia & England is obese.

Shouldn’t the World’s most Sporting Superpowers have a healthy, fit, physically active population that plays sports frequently?

Has the focus on winning medals led to an obese population? Is everybody busy watching sports? 🙂

Has “Play to win” become “Play only if you win”?

And by definition, only a few can win.

Does winning medals by a small contingent of elite players have an inverse correlation to the rest of the population’s sporting participation?

More medals in sport = Less mass participation in sport?

Or is this a spurious correlation?

What’s missing in this picture?

How should we define a Sporting Nation?

Do we want to win medals? Or do we want to play & be fit?

Should we play for fun, fitness and friendship? Or should we play only to win?

Are both paths the same?

Which path should we choose?


Saumil Majmudar

(Co-Founder & CEO, EduSports)

Popular blogs