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Battle obesity by keeping your whole family active

It's easy to convince yourself that obesity doesn't affect you. To joke that few extra pounds is just "extra padding.

It's easy to convince yourself that obesity doesn't affect you. To joke that few extra pounds is just "extra padding. " To tell yourself that you'll take care of it later if you need to - you'll get a gym membership after the house is paid off, cook healthier dinners when you have more time, or join a baseball team when the kids are too old for a sitter.

In Canada, we have five and a half million obese adults, a number that has grown dramatically over the past 20 years. But it's not just adults who are affected - the number of obese children in Canada has nearly tripled over the last 25 years, and we now have 500,000 obese children. It's a problem affecting entire Canadian families.

So what does this all mean? How might obesity affect your family? Well, obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Moreover, it's possible that you could be classified as obese and not even know it. Obesity is based on your body mass index (BMI). If you have a BMI greater than 30, you are defined as obese. Your BMI can be calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. To find out if you are obese you can use this calculation, or have a body fat test done.

So what can you do? The best way for your family to battle obesity is to increase activity levels. It's easy to find ways to keep fit and stay active that your whole family can enjoy; the hardest part is making a commitment and sticking to it. Decide as a family to engage in physical activity three times a week. Then, come up with a list of activities all of you will enjoy. You can take turns choosing, or draw from a hat - just make sure you stick to your thrice-weekly schedule! Here are some activities to get you started:

- Build an obstacle course in the basement or garage on a rainy day.

- Play Twister or other indoor active games.

- Head out to the backyard or a local park, and toss a Frisbee or a football around.

- Go for an afternoon hike.

- Pack a cooler full of water and healthy snacks, and go to the beach. Go swimming, or play a game of beach volleyball.

- If you can't drag your teenager away from the TV, try Wii Fit.

- Make a weekend of it, and go camping. There's endless opportunities for active, outdoor fun. Go kayaking, or ask another family to join you in a game of soccer or softball.

Shaun Karp is a certified personal trainer. See www.