Monday, April 23, 2012

Walking is My Exercise of Choice

Walking has been part of my life for over 5 decades. From walking to elementary and high schools, to walks through the neightbourhood and trails close to home and when travelling.

No running, no biking. Walking. I choose to walk for health because I enjoy it. Not because it will help me lose weight because I have found after all this time it won’t. 

I do it because I like it. 

I know others who are at the gym 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. Good for them. It’s not for me. I didn’t renew the gym membership this year. 

Over my lifetime, I have tried various gym pursuits, including running, but always fell back on plain and simple walking. 3-5 km a day, most days of the week. And you know what? It’s something I like to do and it is the only thing I have kept up for all these years. Snowshoeing in the winter, hiking in the summer and the treadmill at times. We're on our 3rd treadmill having worn out the previous two. Now I will admit months can go by where I just sit at home, but then something clicks and I'm off again. Lacing up the runners, plugging in the headphones and walking around the neighbourhood. 

Last year on our Riverboat Cruise down the Danube, I noticed a bunch of walkers, with poles trekking along the path which runs along the river. It was intriguing. 

When a friend invited me to go with her to a class in Nordic Walking (also called Urban Poling), I jumped at it. Nordic walking uses poles while walking or hiking. The poles give you an upper body workout, an all over body conditioning. Here is the class info for the group I joined in my area (Ottawa, Ontario) called Nordic Walkfit

Saturday was my first "walk". I loved it.

There is something exhilarating being out in the fresh air, sun shining down, heart pumping. Knowing that each step keeps you alive and well.

So I’ll move along, poles at the ready, maybe even take up yodelling to pass the time as I head over vale and hill.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

There are Starving Kids in Africa

Remember when we were kids and didn't eat what was put in front of us for dinner and our parents would say "eat it, there are starving kids in Africa". Our reply was "send it to the starving kids in Africa". I think I might have even said it to my own kids.
As I get older and a little more aware of my health, I tend to read lots of stuff about the prevention of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes. Issues such as obesity and diet. I'm a bit nerdy because I like reading studies and papers and statistics, some good, some bad, some outlandish and really bad information. I love digging down. Finding out if they have any meaning or relevance in my life. Weeding out the good information from the crapola.

I like to read Dr. Sharma's blog and his post led me to the World Health Organization (WHO) website and lots and lots of statistics. The statistics that make most people glassy eyed. Sort of like advanced calculus class. Read it. Write the exam. Don't fully understand what you are doing. Then forget about it.

Statistics don't lie but if you can't read statistics just walk through the food court at the mall. 
We are fat.

That stuff our parents told us: Eat up, clean your plate or no dessert. Well maybe we should have stopped eating and sent the food to Africa. But we ate it all and got fat.

What an eye opener as I dug through the WHO site. I'm more a visual person, so went straight for the maps.

This first map shows the percentage by country of Overweight and Obese Females: 
Orange and Red are NOT good!

And this map shows the percentage by country of Overweight and Obese Males: 
Orange and Red are NOT good!
Click here to see other maps and other WHO stats. Here for Female Stats and Here for Male Stats.

The report shows the rankings of the 192 countries surveyed. I wanted to see where my country stands. I live in Canada. We are 66 out of the 192 countries and here are a few other countries:
Click this PDF to access the full list of Countries with the Percentage of Overweight and Obese Females & Males.

I was feeling quite smug that there were so many more countries with higher obesity rates than Canada. Yup, thinking how we beat a lot of you. But the realization hit that this wasn't a contest. It wasn't the Olympic hockey game where Canada beat the USA or Russia. It's a global health problem. And people are dying at both ends of the spectrum.

I actually looked at the numbers. They were stunning. Last on the list for females was Ethiopia. Just under 4% or less than 1 out of every 10 females are overweight. It rises to 8.6% for males, not the lowest but still near the bottom of the list.  Go figure. They are starving in that country and have for many, many years. I doubt there is a McDonald's in the country. They have civil wars, little food, little comfort and they die young.

Now on to Canada. Let's round it off to 60% or 6 out of every 10 females over the age of 15 in Canada are fat and almost 7 males out of every 10 (66.9%). In the US it is almost 8 out of 10 females (76.7) and more than 8 out of 10 males (80.5%) are overweight. The rest of the developed world isn't any better.

Now look around you at 10 people, including yourself. Do these stats make sense?

I won't mince words trying to say the politically correct terms so I'll say it again.

We are fat.

I am not a big fan of the BMI ranking but they are a snapshot of our bodies. I can look down and see the fat, I don't need to get on a scale or have my girth measured. We are in for huge medical problems and huge medical costs in the future. We hear these stats over and over again through the years but what do they really mean? On the WHO website you can filter the data to BMI >30 (Obese) but since it is very easy for someone who is overweight to slip into that category, I decided the best information was to use the BMI >25.

Which makes me a statistic. I am fat. Overweight in fact. My BMI is ~27 right now, the overweight category. It was almost 35 (obese) a few years ago. But I lost some of that fat and greatly reduced my chances of developing debilitating conditions—preventable conditions—like diabetes.

And I truly believe we all can.

Yes you. Just you. Forget about the other billions, if these stats apply to you or someone you are close to forget about arguing and making excuses. The ball really is in your court. No one can do it for you. It's a struggle to lose and keep off weight, develop healthy habits. It's a constant battle. But I can also tell you it is so worth it. And as one of my docs keeps saying "Just keep trying, and never give up on yourself."

Aren't you just a little tired of studies and statistics. It’s time to get our butts in gear and work against this disease called obesity. One step at a time. We can't change the world but we can certainly change ourselves. And for our kids sake, we must. Don't you really want to live long and be around to enjoy your grandchildren? Wait, for them to live long enough to actually have children.

So maybe stop cleaning our plates and start sending food to Africa.

Or start sending the money we waste at McDonald's or KFC or (add your own favourite fast food joint) to African aid perhaps we could save a few of those kids who really need our help.

Last but not least I leave you with some Big Food images for your visual enjoyment. Can anyone give me a thumbs up on getting rid of stuff like this?

End of Soapbox!
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