Communities along a stretch of Saskatchewan have the highest rates of obesity in Canada, while Richmond, B.C., has the lowest, according to a new study that looks at how socioeconomic factors contribute to expanding waistlines.

The report, entitled "Obesity in Canada," which is a joint effort between the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), found the highest obesity rates in the Mamawetan/Keewatin/Athabasca region of Saskatchewan at 35.9 per cent, and Kings Country, P.E.I., at 32.1 per cent.

In contrast, the lowest obesity rates were reported in Richmond at 5.3 per cent and Vancouver at 6.2 per cent.

The report determined that eliminating physical inactivity in Canadian adults could reduce the number of cases of obesity by about one million. However, the report also found that lifestyle factors do not alone account for the disparity in obesity rates between different regions of the country.

The report found a wide gap in obesity rates between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal populations. According to the report, 17 per cent of non-aboriginals reported being obese, compared to 26 per cent of aboriginals living off-reserve. The obesity rate also varied among First Nations populations. For example, in the category of children between the ages of six and 14, 17 per cent of Metis, 20 per cent of aboriginals living off-reserve and 25.6 per cent of Inuit were obese.

Economic factors were also found to play a role in obesity. According to the report, women in higher income brackets were less likely to be obese compared to women in lower income brackets. The obesity rate among women earning $100,000 or more was 16.3 per cent, compared to 26.8 per cent among women earning less than $20,000.

And while income among females proved to be a factor in obesity, so was socio-economic status across different regions. In Halifax, 11 per cent of residents in the highest socio-economic bracket reported being obese, in stark contrast to the 26 per cent of obesity cases in the lowest socio-economic bracket. While many cities reported similar disparities, others, such as Vancouver and Oshawa, Ont., reported nearly no difference in obesity rates between residents in higher and lower socio-economic brackets.

"Not surprisingly, this report shows that improving lifestyle behaviours, such as healthy eating and physical activity, can have a significant impact on reducing the waistlines and improving the health of Canadians. However, obesity is complex, and there are many other factors that contribute beyond lifestyle habits," Jeremy Veillard, vice president of research and analysis at CIHI, said in a statement.

"By shedding light on the factors most closely associated with obesity and how they play out across Canada, policy-makers and health providers can better target prevention and treatment options to meet the needs of the population."

The report comes at a time when exploding obesity rates are raising concerns that the resulting health complications will strain an already overburdened health-care system.

Obesity rates doubled in Canada among all age groups between 1981 and 2009, and nearly tripled among youth between the ages of 12 and 17. It is now estimated that one in four Canadian adults and about one in 11 children are obese.

While researchers are calling for public health initiatives to lower the impact socioeconomic factors have on obesity rates, they say that adopting a healthier lifestyle can still go a long way to tackling the problem.

Eating more fruits and vegetables could result in 265,000 fewer men and 97,000 fewer women being obese in Canada, according to Lisa Corscadden of the Canadian Population Health Initiative.

"Sometimes the advice to get more exercise, be active 15 minutes a day or get five fruits and vegetables a day aren't that simple or easy if you live in remote parts of the country, or you are working a lot," Corscadden told CTV News.

"So we want to inspire people to realize there is something they can do, there are small things to improve obesity and other health issues."