Exercise for the Risk Averse: choose to be active!

Exercise for the Risk Averse: choose to be active!

images-2We have all heard about that uncle that didn’t smoke or drink, and went to bed early, and died of a heart attack while going for his morning run, right??!! Why would we even bother?!!

Well, there’s some truth to that fear, as your risk of injury and other negative health events certainly increases somewhat WHILE you are exercising. Think about it, your car is much more likely to rattle, overheat, or have a tire blow out while driving at high speeds, than while it’s parked in your garage, right?! A wise colleague of mine once said at a presentation on the matter:

I have never seen anyone get injured while standing at the front of a shop while window-shopping!

and I have to agree, neither have I. And the more extreme the exercise, the greater the chance of a negative outcome. Take Mountaineering for example, which is 50-100 x more risky than your regular structured exercise, with a 1 in 400 chance of dying in any given year!!

BUT, here is the catch: Doing nothing is 20x more risky than moutaineering!!

It is  very clear that being sedentary and sitting for prolonged periods of time is extremely dangerous for us. So much so, that when compared to the rightly criticised smoking, which takes 11mins off your life expectancy per cigarette that you smoke; one hour of sitting watching TV takes 22 mins off your life!

Sitting for 10 hours a day is equivalent to being like an average smoker (20 a day). Both of which lose 1.5 years for every 10 years of the habit.

So how do we reverse this increasing level of risk? The clear answer is to obviously move more! Make sure that you aren’t sitting for an hour without having gotten up. In addition good health (FESS) behaviours reduce the risk of premature death by 65-84%

One other thing to watch is stress. Those that report being “Much more stressed than usual” are at a similar level of risk as those that smoke 20 cigarettes a day!! So, how can you combat this? We know that hobby activities reduce risk by 27%; that relaxation exercises reduce risk by 23%; and that simply ‘enjoying’ life reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 38% in men and 11% in women

Ok, time for me to get up and do a few squats!

Do your kids see you sweat??

Do your kids see you sweat??

overweight teenagerLast week I saw a report on the ABC about the growing prevalence of overweight or obese kids in Australia, and it sparked a lot of angry thoughts! As one my areas of passion is seeing healthy active kids!

The stats, as you can imagine, are scary: Back in 2000, approximately 20% of teenagers were overweight or obese, now its 25% and a study conducted by the Victorian Dept of Hman Services predicts that this number will increase to 33% by 2025 (Future prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australian children and adolescents, 2005-2025 Department of Human Services, March 2008)

The consequences are sad and cruel: greater prevalence of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes, a whole range of cancers, and mental health issues.

The reasons are both staggering, yet unsurprising:

The study reported on by the ABC was conducted by the Cancer Council and National Heart Foundation, and it revealed teens were spending too much time in front of the television with 58 per cent of students having at least three televisions in their home and 40 per cent with video games in their bedrooms. 75% of teenagers were spending more than two hours in front of screens (for school work or entertainment). A huge 82% are not engaging in more than 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

So what are we going to do about this sad state of affairs? All this takes me back to a paper I was privileged enough to co-author a few years ago. It showed that not only are both adults and children under active, but that the association between parents and their kids’ physical activity is decreasing. So the behaviour modelling strength of parents’ activity is influencing kids less! While the reason why is unclear; my guess is that its due to our changing behaviour patterns. We just don’t see as many families going for walks or bike rides together. You don’t see as many dads kicking the footy with their kids. Now we go to the gym or social sport on the way to or from work, and we are ‘done’ by the time we get home. So while we may be active, our kids don’t see us being active, so they don’t learn from our exercise behaviours!

So lets get out with our kids more. Even when I’m being active on my own, I try to make a point of telling my kids how much I enjoyed my run or bike ride around Adelaide’s beautiful trails!

Martin M, Dollman J, Norton K, Robertson, I. (2005) A decrease in the association between the physical activity patterns of Australian parents and their children; 1985-1997, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 8(1): 71-76.

adults and sport making our kids fatter.

Among all the bad news on the radio as I drove to work this morning, I heard that the Heart Foundation has released data from a new study stating that now 25% of Australian kids are overweight or obese, and that they are tipped to be the first generation EVER to live less than their parents.

This is depressing on so many counts – the emotional/psychological load on these kids because of the behaviours we, as adults, allow them to assimilate; their decreased quality of life; and the financial burden on society… just this point alone has so many ramifications. just ask yourself, who is going to look after their parents in their later years??

Now, I know that we keep talking about changed eating habits, increased screen (tv, computers, etc) time, and decreased movement at school. but lets face it: are these things really to blame? or are we, as the example setting parents/adults allowing and driving our kids towards these behaviours?? I authored an article (A decrease in the association between the physical activity patterns of Australian parents and their children; 1985-1997) published in 2005 in the Journal of Science Medicine and Sport, which showed that not only are kids playing less sport now, but also the strength of our influence over their behaviour seems to be decreasing. I guess all you have to do is look at the empty parks around our neighbourhoods that once upon a time had fathers kicking the footy with their sons…

I think there’s also another force at play here, and that is sport, or at least sports-based Phys. Ed. I think that this model rewards the genetically gifted kids (those that can play sports well, and hence also enjoy it), and not kids who are less coordinated/skilled, who may still be trying hard. We all know what happens to these kids, don’t we? they struggle to pick up the intricacies of the game, are the last picked to be part of teams, and eventually develop lack of self-confidence, which leads to avoidance behaviours. What happened to ‘play’? what happened to the notion that schools should be trying (supposedly) to equip our children to succeed in life as adults? is being able to catch and throw a ball with a Lacrosse stick going to make them more influential and valuable citizens, and fulfilled human beings?? how about instilling in them healthy behaviours; to understand that it is ‘movement’ that will save their lives?

There are programs in the States (of A) that now equip children with Heart Rate monitors and reward (and grade) children based on their relative intensity of work, rather than on their skills. this way all children can work within their skill limits and still achieve great outcomes in health. An interesting concept I think.

So, adults, get out and PLAY with your kids! show them that you enjoy moving and being active; that its not a chore, but a reward! We have amazing bodies, which thrive with movement!

where should the money go?? anti-smoking, alcohol, or into physical activity??

just saw the new Australian anti-smoking campaign on TV “Path2Quit”, check it out at www.path2quit.com.au
Firstly, great campaign. simple and to the point. and needed, as we know that as a smoker you will lose, on average, 8 years of healthy life. At face value, it seems that investing heavily in the reduction of community wide smoking is a valid strategy as this is the lifestyle behaviour with the largest effect.

However, Physical inactivity is also a major player, with those that are generally inactive will lose an average of 6.5 years of healthy life.

There is a very interesting factor that is missing from this comparison however, and that is that more than twice as many Australians over the age of 14 years are inactive (7.3M) compared to the number of smokers in this age bracket (2.9M). If we do the sums, smoking Australians will collectively lose 23million years of healthy life… yes, you read that right! but inactive australians will lose 48million years of healthy life…

I wonder if we are investing twice the resources and legislative power to increasing the physical activity levels in this great country….?

Free Lap-Band surgery for the Obese – where is the prevention??

An Australian government parliamentary committee is proposing giving the morbidly obese tax-payer funded lap-band surgery.

Some of the facts are: Obesity cost us $50 billion in 08 (wow, don’t just skim over that number!). 

This surgery can have drastic and rapid effects in terms of reducing weight, disease, financial and personal costs associated with obesity, both to the individual and to tax payers. 

It will only be available to those qualifying under clinical guidelines.

My issue with this is this: our health system is not a health system, its an illness system! where is the prevention??!

How is this for a prevention mindset: Considering the $50billion cost, the government has provided $872million for preventative health programs. Thats 0.02%of the cost being invested!!! and thats for all health programs, that includes obesity, its not even for obesity alone.

Our (SA) federal MP Steve Georganas defended the strategy in ‘Today Tonight’ (tuesday 2nd June09) using the stats above,and said that the program would only be available to those that “have tried everything”. Lets look at that for a second… ‘TRIED’ ‘EVERYTHING‘… when questioned about what may have led individuals to end up in that condition, he mentioned a series of lifestyle behaviours, not surprisingly including poor dietary habits, low levels of physical activity, and high levels of sedentary behaviour, such as prolonged use of TV and computers (its OK, I’m going for a run as soon as I post this!). 

They tried everything??? how about actually doing something?? I have yet to meet an individual who has not had very positive results with weight loss when they have actually committed to it! I hope I don’t sound patronising or inconsiderate. I understand that there’s a vast range of socio-demographic and mental health issues that play a very serious role in this debate, not to mention hormonal imbalances that can make things tougher; I spent a two year-honours degree studying them. 

My point is this: where is the prevention?! where is the focus on education and facilitating healthier choices?? its in the 0.02%!! c’mon, Mr Rudd, lets get serious about a very serious issue!

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