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A banana split from Dairy Queen photographed on July 22, 2003

DARRYL JAMES/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Obesity came under the spotlight last week when U.S. doctors labelled it a disease, and now one unlikely company is doing its part to tackle the problem: Dairy Queen.

The fast food company's corporate headquarters in Edina, Minnesota now includes workstations where employees can walk on a treadmill while on the job.

Inactivity is clearly not good for health, but in recent years, there's been a push to get 9-5 workers out of their chairs regularly during the day. Our bodies aren't meant to be stationary for extended periods, and sedentary behaviors are known to hike your risk of diabetes and heart disease and increase chances of an early death. Sitting affects cholesterol, metabolism, even bone strength.

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Bodies are made to move.

(The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends adults aged 18-64 years spend at least 150 minutes a week doing moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity, plus muscle and bone strengthening activities twice a week.)

But it's not just movement that will cure the rising rate of obesity in North America. A proper diet is also required.

Governments are increasingly grappling with how to limit unhealthy food intake, as health care systems struggle under the burden of obesity-related diseases.

On Thursday, the Agriculture Department announced that for the first time, it is banning high fat, high-calorie snacks from American schools.

The new rules say any snacks sold at schools must be low in fat, salt and sugar. Vending machine snacks must be limited to 200 calories per item and all food sold in cafeterias must have fruits, vegetables, dairy or protein in them or contain at least 10 per cent of the daily value of calcium, potassium, vitamin D or dietary fiber.

Since many children in the US eat more than half of their daily calories at school, this should be celebrated. Snacking is one of the biggest culprits of weight gain; people often snack without thinking about what they're eating. Often, it's a quick fix to satisfy a craving that could sometimes just be thirst. If healthier foods are available, children won't have the option of filling up on sugar-laden chocolate bars when they're hungry.

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Restaurants could benefit from following similar rules.

The treadmill at work thing is not new, but it's interesting a place like Dairy Queen is pushing for it. A small chocolate sundae from Dairy Queen contains 280 calories and seven grams of fat, and their cheeseburger kids' meal carries 370 calories and 18 grams of fat, alongside eight grams of saturated fat.

Treadmills for employees are a good start, but perhaps their next step should be putting a focus on healthier food options at their restaurants.

It will take more than walking at work to counteract the level of fat going into our bodies if we eat fast food on a daily basis.

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