Baseball Reflections

Is Obesity a Problem Among MLB Players?

Obesity is an epidemic that has swept across the entire country. Over 160 million Americans are currently considered overweight or obese, and that includes a rising number of children. There are many factors that play into the obesity epidemic, but two of the biggest issues are diet and a lack of physical activity. 

So, when you think of baseball (or any other sport), you probably don’t immediately think of obesity or anyone being overweight. After all, they’re athletes, right? They’re supposed to be in the best shape of their lives. 

Unfortunately, there is a connection between baseball and being overweight — for both the players and the fans. Between junk food being served in stadiums across the country and players showing off less-than-fit physiques, it can make people wonder if the MLB is doing everything it can to promote a healthy lifestyle. So, is obesity a real problem in MLB? If so, what’s being done about it?

Heavy-Hitting Obesity Facts in the MLB

One of the biggest concerns when it comes to the health and fitness of baseball players is the audience paying attention to them. Baseball has been “America’s game” for years, and it’s always been popular with kids and young adults. They look up to the players whether they have dreams of being a major leaguer or not. 

What’s the problem with that? Baseball has started to create and encourage an environment that may subconsciously promote obesity. Over the last 25 years, almost 80% of players in the MLB have fallen into the overweight to obese category, according to their Body Mass Index. It could be from a lack of activity, an increase in poor food choices, or both. Because drug use has been an issue in the MLB, there are even some concerns that it could cause a weight gain problem in some players. 

Some people argue that a BMI index doesn’t take muscle into account, or that bigger players can hit harder. It might be true that more weight can equate to more power behind the bat, but the bottom line is that being overweight isn’t healthy. 

When children see their favorite players not taking care of themselves, they might lose sight of the importance of health and fitness. After all, if an overweight player in the league can be successful, why bother with eating well and exercising, right? It’s very easy for kids to be influenced by things like this, which is a big problem considering the current state of children’s health in our country. Childhood obesity is already on the rise. Baseball players can be great role models for kids, but part of that means taking care of their bodies. 

It’s not just the players who are gaining a few pounds. All across the country, major league ballparks continue to push “junk food” sales. Over half of all of the baseball stadiums in the country have some type of “all you can eat” package, or a family package that encourages you to buy more food. Between hot dogs, sodas, ice cream, and popcorn, it’s easy to fill up on empty calories throughout nine innings without even realizing it. 

What’s Being Done to Strike Out Obesity? 

By allowing themselves to become overweight, MLB players are putting themselves at risk for things like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, vein disease, and even stroke. By promoting unhealthy eating in their stadiums, the MLB hasn’t done much to encourage their fans to eat right and get moving, either. These risks are the same for everyone, and it’s each person’s responsibility to take care of their own health. 

The league has recognized the importance of health and fitness, especially when it comes to childhood obesity. In 2010, Major League Baseball teamed up with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. The campaign was designed to fight childhood obesity by educating children on making healthy food choices and the importance of physical activity. When kids understand how to stay active and eat better now, they’re less likely to become overweight as adults and develop some of the health risks listed above. 

Through this campaign, 30 baseball players from the league worked with Obama to create public service announcements. They also held clinics for local youth baseball teams to play with the major leaguers for a day. 

In addition to getting kids moving, there are some parks across the country that are recognizing the importance of a healthy lifestyle. While the loaded hot dog probably isn’t leaving the menu any time soon, you can find some healthy food options if you know where to look. For example, Busch Stadium in St. Louis offers vegetable lo mein, Chase Field in Phoenix slings up a veggie burger, and Comerica Park in Detroit actually serves sushi as a snacking option!

Does the MLB have everything right when it comes to promoting health and fitness? No. In fact, there is much more they could be doing to take care of their players and fans. But they have made some changes to their ballpark menus and have signed onto some worthy causes to fight obesity. We can hope this trend continues and that baseball goes back to being a sport that promotes a healthy lifestyle. 

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