Sunday 20 October 2019

Leo's bad news on fitness highlights how unhealthy a lot of us really are


Editorial Comment

The state of the health service has been dominating the headlines in recent weeks thanks to the nursing strike and the mind boggling cost overruns at the National Children's Hospital.

For the Government and its spin doctors, it seems every passing day brings more bad news.

While much of that has been political, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar received a little bad news of his own when he appeared as one of several 'celebrity' guests on RTÉ's fitness promotion programme 'Operation Transformation' last week.

Since our dynamic young Taoiseach first launched his successful leadership bid we have been deluged with images of Mr Varadkar and his more youthful ministers engaged in all manner of athletic activity.

There are surely few out there that don't know Leo likes to jog to work and is partial to hitting the gym several nights a week. Famously, when Canadian PM Justin Trudeau - a politician that shares many of the same traits as Mr Varadkar - visited Ireland in 2017, the media was chock full of pictures of the pair running in the Phoenix Park.

Voters have been well conditioned to view our Taoiseach as being youthful, energetic, fit and healthy. It's an image a million miles away from some of his predecessors and one that - for all the political spin - does provide a very positive health message to the public.

So it came as quite a surprise, not least for the Taoiseach, to learn on Operation Transformation that even a man as active as Mr Varadkar might not be as healthy as he could be.

The Kathryn Thomas fronted fitness show, previously hosted by the late Gerry Ryan, has had plenty of memorable moments but the sight of 40-year-old Mr Varadkar's horrified reaction to the news that he has the metabolic health of a man of 53 surely ranks among the very best.

Many viewers were surely left wondering if a man as active as Leo isn't necessarily fit and healthy what hope do they have of getting in shape?

The segment with the Taoiseach was humorous in its own way but it was also informative and contained a valuable lesson that we all need to pay attention to.

Ireland currently has a major problem with obesity with one in four Irish people classed as being overweight. Many of these people would not class themselves as being obese but they represent a health issue that is waiting to explode.

If even Leo Varadkar is being told he needs to up his game if he wants to stay healthy, then a lot more of us clearly need to take a long hard look at our habits and take far better care of ourselves.

The quality of RTÉ's output is frequently criticised but in this case 'Operation Transformation' has provided a salutary and badly needed lesson that justifies its use of the licence fee.

Since the show first aired way back in 2008, Irish people have become much more aware of the importance of fitness and healthy eating. Mr Varadkar's experience on the programme shows we can't afford to take our new found healthy habits for granted.

Enniscorthy Guardian