Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obesity vs. Terrorism

Make of this what you will, but according to a "prominent US professor of health law" (I didn't know there was such a thing), global terrorism is far less risk than obesity, diabetes and smoke related illnesses.

That's a clever angle, I guess, to call attention to the problem of unhealthy lifestyles. Yes, obesity is an awful thing.

But let's not forget something important:

Gluttony, like smoking, is a personal choice each of us makes. As reckless as it may be, it is a personal decision. On the other hand, if some fanatic decides to strap on a bomb and blow up a restaurant where you might be dining -- you have very little personal choice in the matter.

Read the full story here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Meeting the Challenge

I like stories about people with gumption. People who despite adversity get up and do something about it. Dennis Ewert of Florida is that kind of guy.

He is 67, was overweight, and with several physical obstacles to overcome. Among them were worn out knees and two herniated discs in his back. Knee repair surgeries were successful but left his leg muscles atrophied. Back surgery helped, but one disc (L5) was calcified and not repairable.

So standing is tough at times because he tends to lean forward to take pressure off pinched nerves to his legs. Walking any significant distance causes his lower back to cramp up, so he could not "walk off" his excess weight. As an alternative, he decided he would ride a bike.

He tried two wheel bikes but they felt unstable and unsafe. Instead of giving up, he looked into buying a three wheel trike. It turned out good trikes -- ones that would hold his more than 250 pounds -- were two to three thousand dollars. So he gathered some thrown away bikes and got some one inch steel square tubing and welded together a bike of his design. He sawed off the legs to a lawn chair and built a frame to accept it. His cost: a few hundred dollars.

"The recumbent position is very comfortable," he says. "And all the effort is applied to the calves, thighs, and butt muscles. When the weather is bad, I use my wife's indoor recumbent exercise machine, but I much prefer to be outside in the fresh air. People of all ages and genders give me a thumbs-up or yell out 'cool bike' as I ride by."

In addition to bike riding, Dennis works out on a Weider Crossbow exerciser. He has lost 43 pounds, now weighs 243, and is on his way to his goal of 186. "The bike rides have been a great help, "he says.

P.S. Dennis Ewert is retired from the United States Air Force. He flew 164 combat missions as a radar navigator in B-52s during the Vietnam War. And as a navigator in the free world’s fastest four engine bomber – the B58 Hustler – he flew twice the speed of sound on a couple of occasions. Today, he is a software test engineer (civilian contractor) for the U.S. Air Force.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Royal Pain in the Neck

Spending long hours in front of computer screens has resulted in more chronic shoulder and neck pain, according to the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism. Ah, but there seems to be a solution -- short of tossing out the computer -- and it turns out to be weight training. And an old-time bodybuilding movement called the “Shoulder Shrug” is often a major ingredient in the magic potion.

It’s an easy one to learn, too. Simply stand holding two dumbbells at your sides and lift your shoulders toward your ears. In other words, you shrug. The old standard of 3 sets of 10 or 12 reps sounds about right. If you’re a beginner, start off with a very moderate weight and gradually make increases.

Two other Gray Iron suggestions: Anytime you have chronic pain, check in with your doctor before anything else. Second, read the full story on neck and shoulder pain here: Weight training aids chronic neck pain

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Satisfying Life

Many of the great pleasures in my life have had to do with coaching others. I began more than twenty-five years ago by coaching middle-school soccer teams. At the start, I knew almost nothing about the game, but I learned. Later on, I coached successfully at a high school.

The things that I am good at are mostly fitness or art related. For a while, as a volunteer, I coached a troubled but artistically talented teen develop his drawing and painting ability. Years later, I led fitness kickboxing classes at a health club. Some of the students changed their lives through regular participation and now live fitness lifestyles.

The thing is, all of these things happened in my post-“retirement” years (admittedly, I left the business world still a relatively young man). Today, through my newsletter, blog, and website, I try to influence, urge and cajole mature adults to make the most of life through a fitness lifestyle. In a way, I see it as still coaching, at least indirectly.

My readers range widely in age. Some are not seniors at all, but most have reached the 50 year mark and on up from there. The e-mails come here from all around the U.S. and overseas. (A Google report for the past 30 days shows visits to my web site from 44 different nations and territories.) Some of the stories are wonderful. Some are from seniors who have stayed super-fit their entire lives. Others are embarking on an exercise program for the first time. Many are overcoming health problems or other obsticles to their progress, and I am often surprised by their creativity, ingenuity, and determination (some examples will follow in future posts). Sometimes they thank me for information or for my prodding them to take care of themselves. Does it make me happy? Yes, it makes my day.

Thank you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Would You Want to Live to 100?

It's been reported (Associated Press story) that new research concludes “Living to 100 is easier than you might think.” Well, okay. That's good news, I guess. Still, the question Gray Iron asks is this: Would you really want to?

My own answer is, yes, sure . . . if (1) I still had interests in life, and (2) I were physically capable of caring for myself. If not, what is the purpose of hanging on? That is how I see it.

The crux of the matter, I think, is in the following excerpt (from the AP report):

Overall, the men [at 100] were functioning better than the women. Nearly three-fourths of the male survivors could bathe and dress themselves, while only about one-third of the women could.

"The researchers think that may be because the men had to be in exceptional condition to reach 100. 'Women, on the other hand, may be better physically and socially adept at living with chronic and often disabling conditions,' wrote lead author Dr. Dellara Terry and her colleagues.”

“Functioning better” and being capable of bathing and dressing themselves? If you cannot dress and bathe yourself, and if nothing is of interest in life, what is the point?

I say, live a fitness lifestyle today and for the rest of your days. This will add quality of life to your years. No one can predict how long those quality years will last, but the odds greatly favor those who exercise and eat well. If living to 100 is in the cards, so be it. If not, the years you have will be good years, not merely existence and dependency.

What do you think?

Full report here: Reaching 100 Easier Than Suspected.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Can You Be Too Lean?

Obesity gets all the attention. But believe or not, there are people at the opposite end of the fatness problem, those who are too lean. That is, their body fat percentage is too low to be healthy. It may come as a surprise that many in that category are athletes – people we generally consider physically superior. In fact, a study involving Olympic athletes indicates some may be putting their health at risk.

So, when it comes to body fat, just how lean should we be?

Many fitness professionals recognize the following table. Some may factor in age, but, generally, the categories are about right for everyone, regardless of age.

Category (Body Fat Percentage):

  • Excessively Lean (Men) Under 5% -- (Women) Under 12%
  • High Performance (Men) 5 – 9% -- (Women) 12 – 17%
  • Good Fitness (Men) 10 – 20% -- (Women) 18 – 25%
  • Marginal (Men) 21 – 25% -- (Women) 6 – 30%
  • Obese (Men) Over 25% -- (Women) Over 30%
[The table is from Gray Iron: A Fitness Guide for Senior Men an Women.]

Read the full report about the study: Olympic Athletes May Risk Health for Trim Physique.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Couch Potatoes Never Get A Break

Sometimes life just isn’t fair – at least not for the physically inactive.

In yet another study, this one from Great Britain, the evidence suggests that people who are physically active may be biologically younger than couch potatoes.

"A sedentary lifestyle increases the propensity to aging-related diseases and premature death. Inactivity may diminish life expectancy not only by predisposing to aging-related diseases, but also because it may influence the aging process itself," said study author Lynn F. Cherkas, of King's College London.

Gray Iron says the message is unmistakably clear, and so is the solution: Turn off the TV, the computer, and the video games. Rise from the couch or chair and move. Walk, run, swim, skate, pump iron, whatever. You will retain or possibly regain the attributes of youth. They say you only go around once. Don’t waste it.

Read the full story, "Sedentary Lifestyle Accelerates Aging."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Senior Workout Wisdom

Gray Iron Newsletter subscriber Denis Ledoux writes the following:

“One young man at my gym wanted to know why I wanted to add lean body mass. It was not going to be good for my heart to be too bulky at my age.

“To which I answered, ‘I come three times a week. I am a 60 (at the time) year old ectomorph. I will of course add lean body mass but my goal is to be the most fit man of my age. I'm not going for mass. The potential for lean body mass is limited by my testosterone level and my ambition — and both levels are fine with me at this time in my life.’

“It was interesting to me to have the opportunity to articulate my goals, which he had assumed would be the same as for a 22 year old! (His age!)

"I enjoy being fit and have the most comfortable relationship with my body that I have ever had. And yes, I am usually the most fit man my age in the room. I love it when people say, ‘You look fit. What have you been doing?’

“Friday marks the beginning of my fifth year of faithful 3 times a week attendance at the gym. I have loved the experience and find going to be a pleasure and not a duty or chore. (I had never pursued exercise like this before and was frankly surprised that I enjoyed it so much.)”

Denis Ledoux

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yummy, Yummy, See My Big Tummy

Was skimming Men’s Health magazine and I landed on a page called “Gut Bombs to Go.” (Great title, I thought.) Listed were the worst of food items that are typically bought on the run. Here are two examples that say a lot about obesity and the rising rates of diabetes in the U.S. and other developed nations.

  • Worst Donut: Krispy Kreme Caramel Kreme Crunch. This baby — just one donut by itself — checks in at 380 calories, which include 21 grams of fat (6 grams trans fat) and 46 grams of carbs. And if you’re inclined to have coffee with your Caramel Kreme Crunch, don’t forget to add a few bonus calories if you take cream and sugar.
  • Worst Drive-Through Combo Meal: The Burger King Triple Whopper with Cheese, Fries, and a King Size Coke. Bingo! You’ve just wolfed down 2,300 calories — in one sitting. Yep, that truly is a whopper of a meal. And all the essential nutrients are covered, too: 115 grams of fat (11 grams trans fat), 225 grams of carbs, 117 grams of sugar, and topped off with 2590 mg. of sodium.

Don’t laugh. Millions of our fellow citizens eat this kind of junk daily. Of course it should be added that no one holds a gun to their head and forces them to do it. At least I'm not aware of it, are you?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Bodybuilding Great-Grandmother is Gone

A visitor sent information that Morjorie Newlin passed away. Maybe you remember the August post about this amazing great-grandmother (86 years old!) still competing in bodybuilding.

"I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of Philadelphia's first lady of fitness, Morjorie A. Newlin. I first read about the remarkable, then-70-year-old in the early '90s and was inspired by her pursuit of fitness and bodybuilding. She has been a shining example to me that in life there are no limits.

"When, in 2004, I was given the opportunity to write for the Daily News, I vowed that she would be my first column. From the moment we met, we hit it off. She was a pure delight, and it was an honor to know her. She will remain an inspiration to me and to many others."

The visitor who sent the information did not include a name.

Read Morjorie's obituary in the Philadephia Daily News here.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Thoughts About Getting “Pissed Off”

One of the things in the news business you learn quickly is no matter what you write or say, somebody is going to get annoyed. Twenty years at a newspaper taught me that.

Coverage of a labor dispute long ago comes to mind. The local teachers went on strike, which of course was news, front page news. The teachers had squared off against the school board. The parents picked sides and each side was convinced the news coverage favored the other side. No one on either side could be convinced otherwise.

That is just a bit of ancient history.

This is today. Gray Iron Fitness is an information and opinion web site. The opinions are mine. I try to make them down-to-earth and realistic. The goal is simple: convince people to take good care of themselves, and offer information about good ways to do it. Pretty innocuous, you would think. But remember the first paragraph: No matter what you write or say, someone will take umbrage.

Example: Several months ago, I demonstrated in a video an exercise called the “Arnold Press.” Could anything be more noncontroversial? Yet a man wrote to cancel his subscription. The thrust of his complaint had to do with my mention of Arnold (Schwarzenegger). Arnold used steroids, he said. Steroids are bad. (I agree.) The man had been a long-time subscriber, had written to me before, and seemed like a nice fellow. Who knows why just mentioning Arnold’s name set him off? There is a certain irony to it, though; because I am about the most anti-steroids guy anyone will come across.

Why am I bringing this up? It is the election season and emotions can run high. Some people convince themselves their candidate isn’t getting a fair shake. The other guy or gal is a boob, a jerk, or a scoundrel. Sometimes they are right on all counts. Sometimes not. And sometimes they just have irrational hot buttons that get pushed. Then all reason goes out the window and the blood boils. An election season is one more good reason to get plenty of fresh air and exercise.