Updated 29 January 2016

Bloemfontein has largest number of couch potatoes

Lifestyle plays an important role in the current 'globesity' epidemic. A survey by the Discovery Vitality ObeCity Index ranked SA's major cities in order of health.


People who live in Bloemfontein are the unhealthiest citizens of South Africa, while Capetonians are the healthiest.  

According to a survey by the Discovery Vitality ObeCity Index among Discovery’s Vitality members, South Africa’s unhealthiest people live in Bloemfontein.  

Chronic disease and premature death

Discovery reports that lifestyle habits like eating and exercise play an important role in the current “globesity” epidemic. In South Africa, more than 60 percent of women are overweight or obese (double the global average), and obesity is increasingly prevalent in countries where “under nutrition” was once the problem. 

Obese people spend about 30% more on healthcare expenses than those who weigh less. Their risk of chronic disease and premature death is also much higher.

Read: Office workers need to get on their feet

The Vitality ObeCity Index was created by Discovery Vitality and experts in obesity and nutrition from leading South African academic institutions in order to further encourage and motivate all people to make healthier choices.

The index compared information about health habits collected from just under 170 000 Vitality members over the age of 18 in the cities of: Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and Pretoria.

Compilers of the index looked at figures for weight status, food and beverage choices, physical activity and psychological wellbeing. These details reveal which cities have the healthiest people as it relates to weight status, demographic and health profiles, and family disease history.

According to the study, people from Bloem have the unhealthiest weight, the lowest intake of fruit and vegetables and the highest consumption of sugary drinks and salty food. Bloemfonteiners are also the second least active group in the country.

Just plain lazy

Jaco Cohen, an electrical contractor from Bloemfontein says he has no problem believing these figures.

“You know, we live very hectic lives and we are just plain lazy,” he says. 

For the last 15 years he buys biltong with that “lovely yellow fat” at Fenwick’s Butchery in the city.

“My grandmother always said yellow fat is healthy. That’s why I eat this biltong.”

He says his doctor recommends that he eat more white meat.   

Read: Red meat ups death risk

“And that’s exactly what I do. I choose the biltong that’s a bit drier than the rest. That’s my white meat!”  

Cobus Fenwick (52), the owner of the butchery says nine out of ten clients who walk into his shop come to buy biltong.

“And everyone wants the biltong with the yellow fat.”

He knows Cohen well.  

'Biltong is my vegetables'

“When I make the biltong I know exactly which pieces I need to put aside for Jaco. Big pieces with a lot of fat. Then I give him a call to tell him to come and fetch his biltong.”    

Cohen laughs. “I buy all my biltong here. There’s no place that makes better biltong. The fat on the biltong is my vegetables.” 

But Fenwick says he doesn’t believe it’s the biltong that makes Bloemfonteiners so fat.

“For the past nine years I only eat biltong. Now and again I eat braaivleis, but mostly just biltong.

“And I also drink four litres of Coke a day and smoke Marlboro cigarettes. But I still weigh the same as I did when I was in matric.”

He says he thinks take-away food is actually the problem.   

Read: Worst fast food nations

“People are too lazy to make food. It is easier to buy ready-made food at the Spar or Pick n Pay or to make a quick stop at McDonald’s. It’s not fatty biltong that makes people fat.”  

Cohen agrees about the laziness.

Too much time on their backsides

People don’t want to cook like they did in the old days. Their planning is also bad. That’s why it’s so easy to go and buy food at the nearest shop.”

The following is a list of the unhealthiest to the healthiest cities in South Africa, according to the Discovery Vitality ObeCity index:

1. Bloemfontein 

2. Pretoria: Pretorians’ weight is average, but this is the city where most Vitality members add fat to their food and also where they get the least amount of sleep. They’re also the group that spend the most time on their backsides and the least time doing exercise. Pretorians therefore get the lowest score for physical activity.  

3. Port Elizabeth: The inhabitants of this city are reasonably active and spend less time sitting than most of the others. However, they have the second lowest score for their weight and food and drink choices.   

4. Durban: Like the people from Port Elizabeth,  Durbanites are reasonably active, but their food and drink choices are poor. They also don’t eat many fruits and vegetables and add a lot of sugar and fat to their diet.  

5. Johannesburg: Joburgers’ weight status is the best, compared to the inhabitants of the other cities. They also have the best BMI (Body Mass Index) count, the best body fat percentage and the best waist-to-height ratio. Joburg is also the city where people make the second best food choices. They, however, spend the most time sitting.

6. Cape Town: The healthiest city in the country. These Vitality members achieved the highest score in all the categories. Capetonians need to be careful, though, not to spend too much time sitting as they didn’t get a good score in this department. 

Read more:

Lifestyle choices influence longevity

Activity key to feeling young

From fat to fit

Translated and adapted from an article published on Netwerk24, 28 January 2016


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