Do You Have a Dad Bod?

First time I heard the phrase, “dad bod”, I was a little confused. First, I didn’t really know what that meant, me being a dad and all. Second, evidently, many men sporting the dad bod were satisfied with the way they looked. Third, there was a significant number of women that were saying that they preferred a man with a dad bod.

21up-dadbods-superJumboSo, what is a dad bod? In a recent article from the New York Times, Losing the Fight Against ‘Dad Bod’, it is quantified as being 5 – 15 pounds over what might be considered ideal. It’s rounder and maybe includes a slight beer belly. OK, so, in the scheme of things, when roughly 70% of the US population is classified as overweight and 36% considered obese, 5 – 15 pounds doesn’t seem so bad.

I haven’t seen any documented rationale explaining why men might be satisfied with a dad bod, but, taking a guess, I’d say it’s because it’s not so hard to maintain and allows them to enjoy more food and drink than their ripped body toting counterparts.

The-Workout-Cure-for-Dad-Bod

And, yes, women do seem to like the look. This has been surveyed and the overall response as to why they like it, seems to be that men are “less neurotic” about their looks which means more relaxed eating habits and not spending endless hours at the gym. This leaves more time to be spent nurturing the kids, doing things around the house, and taking care of the wives.

Should you be sporting a dad bod? Well, it’s unlikely that 5 – 15 pounds over ideal body weight is going to present a health issue (but, that’s a decision for your doctor to make), so it really comes down to your own perception of how you look. If you are happy with the way you look, rock on. If not, then you need to take the dietary and exercise steps to get leaner.

Big final note: just because you are fine with your dad bod, doesn’t mean you can ignore exercise or diet completely. You still need to eat reasonably healthy and at least get a minimum of exercise to maintain your strength, stamina, and mobility in order to be able to do the physical things that we want as we get older.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Is Retirement a Good Thing?

People my age (I’ll turn sixty in December), plus or minus a few years, are either retiring or thinking about retiring. Isn’t that everyone’s goal, to retire, to not have to work anymore, to sleep in, and only do what you want to do? But, is retirement good for us? There have been studies through the years that have shown how people’s health, physically and mentally, decline once they retire. Retirement is also listed 10th on the list of life’s 43 most stressful events. In fact, the reason I started to write this post was because I believed that retirement was typically an unhealthy thing to do. In researching the topic, however, I found some surprising data.

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In order to understand this better, let’s discus some of the changes you may experience when you retire.

  • Your sense of purpose may change. If you have had a career in some field that inspired you, that loss can leave you unmotivated and depressed.
  • Your schedule changes. The time structure and hours you have kept disappear. Suddenly, you may find yourself sleeping late (not always a bad thing) and without a set schedule, you may find yourself not getting around to doing any of the things that you thought you would.
  • Your secondary social environment is gone. For many of us, a huge part of the social interactions that we have during the day are with co-workers, clients, and/or customers. Many retirees experience loneliness
  • Your physical life may change. While many people may have sitting jobs, there are also a lot of people that are physically active in their jobs. Construction workers to mail carriers will see a loss in the “mandatory” movement that their jobs required. Without regular physical activity, our health and ability to do daily tasks can be compromised.

Well those are some of the changes and some of the negative consequences that can occur when you retire, but… new research has been showing people are getting more out of retirement than they used to. It appears that the keys to their happier, healthier retirement are:

  • Finding a part-time job doing something you love (either for pay or volunteering) to give you a sense of purpose. This can also help you build new social connections, possibly teach you new skills, and give you a schedule that can get you up and out of your house.
  • Getting or keeping physically active. It’s so important for your health and physical independence to exercise, and now you have the time. Gyms, studios, or health clubs also offer another social environment.
  • Continuing to learn. Whether it’s learning a language, arts, or even going back to college, cognitive challenges help maintain brain health.

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So, if you are looking forward to retirement or are already there, these are the types of activities to incorporate into your vision of retirement to make the most of your health, fitness, and happiness. Live long. Live healthy. Live happy.

What Does It Mean to Be Fit?

My ideas for posts frequently come from something I see or read in the media. Finding a More Inclusive Vision of Fitness in Our Feeds, an article in the New York Times made me realize that it was time to talk about our perceptions of what it means to be fit. If a client tells me that they want to become fit, my first question is, “Fit to do what?” Being fit to run a marathon is not the same as being fit to lift boxes at your UPS job, or fit to comfortably get through your daily activities.

There is no one perfect fitness level for everyone. The models we see in commercials, print, and in social media, are either making or trying to make a living from being fit. Getting that lean and muscular (like that of a fitness competitor), is not only difficult to achieve, it’s also extremely difficult to maintain. So, as we look at the images of these individuals, whose job is essentially to look as fit as possible, why is it that we believe that we need to look like them? Well, the simple answer is that marketers try to convince us that we both can and should, through the use of their product or service, look just like them.

While you may desire to look like the models, it’s important to realize that you don’t need to look like them to be fit and healthy. There are some great pictures on internet that (I believe) were published by Sports Illustrated. They show the bodies of top athletes in different sports. Their body types vary widely, illustrating how you can be very fit, elite in your field, and still have a body that doesn’t look like those fitness models.

male athletes

The idea of being comfortable in a less than Adonis body, means that you are less stressed, less anxiety ridden about your appearance, which should allow you to enjoy life a little more.

 

1DB53F88-D145-469D-A558-0A778F5C07D4-2580-00000269638C2946The catch is that this doesn’t mean sit around and eat whatever you want. You still have to workout and eat healthfully. That’s what is going to help you get/stay fit (to do whatever it is that you want to do) and healthy by getting all of the nutrients you need for your body to function properly. But, you don’t need to look like a fitness model. Be fit, be healthy, but also be happy in knowing that fitness comes in all shapes and sizes.

 

Working Out With Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is when articular cartilage, the cartilage that covers the bone at a joint and acts like a cushion Osteoarthritis-of-Knee-Jointand helps it glide through movement, wears down and/or is damaged, it leaves the joint with bone grinding against bone. This can cause pain, swelling and problems moving the joint. This is osteoarthritis. There are many of us that will experience osteoarthritis as we get older. It is a degenerative condition that can be caused or made worse by aging, injury, or pressure from excess body weight. Needless to say, when our joints hurt, we move less. That used to be the recommendation from the medical community as well. If it hurts to do something, then don’t do it. Unfortunately, that’s not what current research shows. The less we move the joint, the weaker the surrounding muscles become and, the weaker they become, the more stress is on the joint. This ongoing stress only makes the pain and discomfort worse.

osteoarthritis

In general, we all know that we should be exercising. You should be exercising your whole body in general, and particularly the effect joint(s). The current guideline is to gradually build your strength routine until you are working the effected joint(s) as hard as you can tolerate, through as great a range of motion as you can tolerate. This helps maximize the strength gains and maintain your joint flexibility.

Another benefit to exercising with osteoarthritis is that exercise helps to control weight. Excess body weight adds pressure to the joints and can create and/or accelerate joint damage.

Exercising may be the last thing you want to do when your joints are stiff and achy. But it’s crucial for easing pain and staying active.Harvard Health Publications. Osteoarthritis doesn’t need to be a sentence to an inactive lifestyle. Find guidance from a health and fitness professional who can create a gradually progressive program that is appropriate for your individual needs, and you can lessen the pain and discomfort that osteoarthritis causes you.

Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That

One of the most common reasons for delaying the start of an exercise program is the perception of not having enough time. I say perception because, in reality, we could all have the time.

I know that at least some of you reacted to that statement with a, no time ?

“NO, really, I don’t!” Maybe that is true for a very few, but let’s look at how we could, if we really wanted to, carve out the time to fit in some exercise.

Let’s start with how much time we need to find. Workouts don’t need to take hours each day. I’ve put together 15 minute workouts for some of my clients that can be quite effective. The Tabata protocol is effective and its only 4 minutes long (and who can’t fit in 4 minutes). So, fitting in your workout becomes more about what time can you dedicate to a workout and then choosing the most “bang for your buck” exercises to perform in that time.

Here are a few ways to find or make the time you need.

Get up earlier – Let’s face it, if you get up a little bit earlier, you can fit some exercise in. Initially it may not be easy to roll out of bed sooner than you normally do, but it can quickly become a habit.

Chunk it up – You can break up your workout into smaller segments. Do a few minutes here, a few minutes there.

Schedule an appointment – You know that if you needed to set a meeting with your boss or one of your employees, you would find the time, book it, and stick to it. So, with the same commitment, book an appointment with yourself for exercise and stick to it.

Exercise before dinner – For most people, once you eat dinner and get into that relaxed mode, exercise just isn’t going to happen. Commit to doing some kind of exercise before you sit down to eat.

Obviously, these are just a few of the possibilities, but, hopefully they give you some ideas about how you can find/make the time to fit exercise in. After all, isn’t taking care of yourself worth a little schedule manipulation?

In Search of… Perfection?

I recently read two things that prompted this post. The first was a New York Times article about Chantal Bacon, a “lifestyle guru” who produces and sells some very expensive, supposed wellness enhancing, products. The second thing I read was the book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson.

Wellness guru

So, what is it that drives us to spend outrageous amounts of money on products that promise to make us…what? Become one of the beautiful people? What are we really seeking? The problem, according to Manson, is that we set our reference points at unrealistic levels. Then, we constantly compare ourselves to those levels and end up unhappy about our looks, our bodies, our lives.

graybeardI’m slowly but surely losing my hair. I have a few more wrinkles every year. I have a few more aches and pains as time passes. I’m not thrilled by any of these changes. I could obsess about them. I could take every product known to counteract them, but I know I will never be as good looking or even have the hair of George Clooney. Well, George Clooney should not be who I benchmark myself against, and yet, the media and businesses trying to sell us products hold those unrealistic icons up to us and try to convince us that this is perfection and we should be trying to achieve this too.

The real take away note for us is that perfection is unattainable and the more we measure ourselves against perfection, the more unhappy we will be with where we are. Don’t let others tell you what or who you should be. There’s a saying, “Don’t let perfection get in the way of good.” Our search should be for a better us. Celebrate the successes and enjoy the journey of improvement. Learn, love, live life and be happy.

 

I Think You’re MythTaken (1)

The health and fitness world is full of misinformation and mythology. Part of this is that those trying to capitalize on the misinformation and sell their products, continue to push it into the consumers’ minds as if it were fact. I think the other part of the story is that those same consumers are desperate to find some short cut or miracle that will save them from having to put in the time and/or hard work that it might really take. mythexercise

There are myths aplenty, so, in a series of posts I’ll start to address a few of them each post. Today, let’s start with one of the big ones,

No pain, no gain.

If you’re an athlete or former athlete, you may have had practices that left you so sore that you could barely walk. (I know I have.) Usually, this is because when you were supposed to be doing your off-season workouts, you weren’t. Then you come into pre-season workouts that are high intensity, ramping you up for the season, but your body wasn’t ready and, in the sports world, the coaches just keep pushing you spouting, “No pain, no gain.” Pain is not weakness leaving the body no matter what anybody says. Pain (and let’s stick to muscular pain, not injury pain.) is telling you that you did more than your body was ready for. The smart plan is to ease into a program, starting at a point that doesn’t make you sore and gradually ramping up the intensity at a pace that you never get sore. Pain, for most, is a reason to not exercise and, if it’s not necessary, why go there?no pain

You can spot reduce fat (lose from one particular area)Spot-Reduction

This is absolutely one myth that is perpetuated by those wishing to cash in at your expense. (Just Google “lose belly fat” to see the ads.) The fact is when we exercise, we burn more calories. We don’t burn calories from any one area, not even the working area. We burn them systemically, taking from all over the body. It’s like you have an inflatable fat suit. You open the spigot and air is let out from the whole suit. Doing sit ups doesn’t burn the fat from your waist. Doing triceps extensions doesn’t burn the fat off the back of your arms. They burn calories systemically and can build the muscle under the fat, but that’s it. Your “trouble areas” will be the last places to get lean because that’s where you carry more fat cells. Concentrate on your diet, a well-rounded exercise program and give it time.

The final myth for this post is

The more you sweat, the more fat you burn.

Sweating is simply a way for your body to cool off. You sweat, the sweat evaporates and that helps to cool you down. Now sometimes you will have a great workout and you are drenched in sweat. Sweet-Sweat-Waist-Trimmer-with-Sample-of-Sweet-Sweat-Workout-Enhancer-gel-Medium-0-4Don’t let it fool you. You had a great workout and your body is trying to cool itself, but, the high heat, high humidity, or lack of air circulation is the real reason you’re sweating so profusely. Let’s face it, haven’t you ever just been sitting and just couldn’t stop sweating? Does that mean you’re burning fat with no effort? Nope. What about swimming in the ocean? If the water temperature is lower than body temperature, you’re not going to sweat. Obviously, if you’re working hard at it, you’re burning those calories whether you sweat or not.

Of course companies are still trying to sell you on the myth. The old sauna suits are still being sold and still touting “Lose weight and burn calories quickly with this sauna suit.” The thermal waist wrap pictured, is actually playing two myths at once, spot reduction through sweating.

There is ever more research being done in the health and fitness industry and it’s by knowing what the current science says that we can steer clear of the myths and misinformation that surround us. Please, ask me any questions in the comment section below.

 

 

 

Should I Go Vegan to Get Healthy?

Should you become vegan in order to become healthier? In a word, No! This came up a couple of times recently and I wanted to talk about the idea that being a vegan is somehow healthier than being an omnivore. Let me be clear in what I am and what I am not saying. I am saying that choosing to follow a vegan diet because it is healthier than the alternatives is a misinformed choice, because it is not inherently healthier. I am not saying that it is wrong to be vegan and I am not saying that you can’t be healthy on a vegan diet. I am not debating what diet you are choosing. I am debating why you are choosing it.

Vegan vs omniLet’s start with the major category definitions.

Omnivore = Eats all food source categories

Vegetarian = Eats no meat or animal products

Pescetarian= Eats no meat or animal products, but includes fish, mollusks, and crustaceans

Lacto-vegetarian= Eats no meat or animal products, but may include dairy products

Ovo-vegetarian = Eats eggs, but dairy and meat are still restricted

Vegan = Eats only plant sourced foods

So, there are many steps in-between being an omnivore and a vegan. It’s not always an either/or question. The first problem with comparison is that most often people are comparing the worst omnivore (eats fried meat all day and no fruits or veggies) with the best vegan (is careful to get all of the nutrients they are missing by cutting out many food sources). Most individuals on these diets are neither of these extremes.

Some of the most heart healthy diets, such as the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet are omnivorous ones. Some vegan (plant-based) choices are less than healthy, like processed faux meats (actually there are many vegan options that are processed) and sugar.

If you want to choose to be vegan for ethical reasons or even if you just want to try it, great. Go for it, but don’t do it to become healthier. Make sure that you get all the nutrients that you need and may be missing by having cut out food groups. Also, pay particular attention to getting enough complete protein in your day (soy and quinoa are great sources).

If you want to be a healthy omnivore, add more fruits and vegetables into your diet (most Americans don’t eat enough), eat as many whole foods as possible and keep your protein sources lean and cook them in a lean manner.

Ultimately, both an omnivore diet and a vegan diets can be either healthy or not. Being vegan and meeting all of your dietary needs can be difficult, but omnivores have plenty of their own challenges. Of course, in any of these, you can overeat and that can lead to weight gain. So, manage your calories as well.

Good luck in whatever you choose. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Older Americans Month?

I was just tracking down some information for a later article when I happened on to this. May is Older Americans Month (OAM), and, as I start to consider myself “older”, I had to find out what this is all about. It seems that the Administration for Community Living (ACL) has been leading the charge in celebrating OAM. ACL also created the theme for 2017. The theme is “Age Out Loud”, sort of a “Loud and Proud” for the aging adult. Frankly the theme could easily have been “Age Out Loud and Proud” because the point is to give the aging population the recognition that they (well… we) deserve.   Logos2

The older adult population continues to grow and with that, their desire to stay healthy, fit, active, and, as OAM states, “live their lives with boldness, confidence, and passion while serving as an inspiration to people of all ages.” In other words, to continue to kick butt and take names. I’m certainly all for that.

They have some fun ideas for things that you can do in your own community to celebrate Aging Out Loud and have links to some great resources from other organizations for the aging adult. See resources.

Age Out Loud is also meant to keep older adults engaged in the issues going on around us. Getting out and being heard on issues from city planning to healthcare. No retreating from the world here. Always active, always moving forward. #AgeOutLoud

Summer is Coming. What’s Your Workout Plan?

About this time of year, I start hearing people talking about how they’re going to stop going to the gym because they will be active outdoors all summer. I get it, active inside or active outside, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Well, I have to tell you. It’s not the same.

gardener

First, let me say that exercising or being active outside can have some significant emotional/psychological benefits. Even five minutes of “green exercise” can enhance your mood and feeling of well-being. So, yea for being outside! There are, however, a few cautionary notes to dropping out of your regular full body workout program.

Whether we are gardening or playing tennis, activities are never symmetrical. We always favor one arm or leg. Raking, digging, planting are one side dominant. We even get up or down on the ground favoring one leg. Tennis is essentially a one-armed sport. In golf, you always swing to one side. These asymmetries can create strength and flexibility imbalances that may cause injuries in time. kayak

Another issue is that these activities rarely take us through the full ranges of motion that we would (or should) be getting with our  gym workout. Full movement at the knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, etc. doesn’t come without planning for it. Walking, running, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and biking do not promote joint mobility (or certainly not full-body joint mobility).

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TRX (suspension device) for outdoor workouts

There are some solutions that are pretty simple. One option is to just keep doing your regular gym workout. If you don’t seem to have time and want to spend more time outside you can modify your workout to be shorter and/or go to the gym less frequently. In example, you could cut back to a 30 minute, twice a week. Another answer is to do your full body workout outdoors. There are a number of ways to make that happen. You can do bodyweight workouts, use a suspension device such as the TRX, or you could use elastic tubing that is very portable and very effective.

What you can’t do is go from a structured, full body workout program to summer “activities” and expect to maintain the benefits. You’ll come back in the fall having to start up at a much reduced level to reflect what you have lost. So, plan ahead and decide how you can continue your strength and mobility training throughout the summer.