More than half--36.7 billion (with a b!)--of these are overweight. And nearly 60 percent--43.2 billion--of these are overweight.*
Any idea what these are? Did you guess men and women? Boys and girls? Office workers and stay-at-home moms? Would you believe the answers are dogs and cats?!
When pet obesity is at epidemic proportions, that really says something about the human population, don't you think?
This reminds me of an anonymous quote I had in my office a few years ago: "If your dog is fat, you're not getting enough exercise." (The irony in this is that my dog is, in fact, fat! But I attribute that to his breed--a squatty French bulldog, his bad back, short snout, constant treats from my mother, and the fact that the poor ol' guy only has one eye! Uh-oh. Did I just make excuses for why he's not exercising?!)
Anyway, now that we know how many fat furry friends we have, let's take a look at the human statistics, courtesy of the National Academy of Sports Medicine:
As you might expect, both humans and animals suffer similar consequences from being overweight and obese: joint pain, diabetes, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, shortened life expectancy and decreased quality of life.
So, what do we do about it? Use those beloved pets as motivation! Listen, I've got some friends who adore their fur-babies as much (or more?!) than I love my own children, so for the love of Fido and Fifi, get moving and eat the right stuff (clean, lean and green!)!
Try these exercises you can do with your pet, courtesy of Hillspet.com/weight-management:
*2012 Pet Study for the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention
BUSINESS PLUG: If you're in the greater Raleigh/Cary/Garner area of North Carolina, the best health center for your pet is Carolina Ranch Animal Hospital and Resort (http://www.carolinaranchpets.com/). They'll get plenty of exercise during the daily "Buckaroo Roundup"!
So there I was, cruising down Race Track Road in St. Johns, Fla, late one afternoon. And I may have been slightly exceeding the speed limit (if you're going to name a road 'Race Track' for Heaven's sake, expect people to drive fast!). As I casually glanced at my rearview mirror, there it was. A police car. Not just behind me, but right behind me. My stomach sank the way it does when we immediately feel guilty, whether we've done something wrong or not.
Of course I ease off the gas pedal, apply lip gloss, then put my hands at two and ten on the wheel (because the most competent drivers have shiny lips, right?!). Please don't pull me over, please don't pull me over, please don't pull me over. The officer continued to tail me, even though he had room in the neighboring lane to pass. I decided to make a move to determine his intentions. I signaled with my blinker and steadily moved into the right hand lane. Was he going to stay behind me? Please don't stay behind me. I don't have time to be pulled over. I'll be late for work!
Vroom! The officer flew past me. Whew! He was clearly in a hurry, but without his lights flashing, I assumed he wasn't responding to an emergency. Now, I don't know about you, but when I see a police cruiser exceeding the limit without its lights on, I may interpret that as license to keep up with it. So I did. I trailed it for a couple of miles, until I found myself directly behind it...turning into the same destination as I was heading.
One guess where that was. Yep, the gym. I was on my way there to lead a group training session, while he was arriving, with his young child in the back (yes, where they seat criminals), to work out. I have to admit that when I realized he was simply headed to the gym, I was miffed. How dare he ride my tail and make me break into a cold sweat, just so that he could speed to the club (like I was doing :-)?!
But then, I had another train of thought--this dude really wanted to work out. He had prioritized this time to exercise, and he wasn't going to let me and my Honda get in his way. He was even willing to bring his son along for the ride, because Daddy needs to be strong and healthy. Beyond that, as a police officer, he needs to be fit enough to subdue bad guys, a service for which I am eternally grateful.
As my brain kept churning on this, I wondered just how many of my readers are as adamant about making time to exercise. Oh, that's right. You don't have time. You can't afford a gym membership. You're too busy with kids, work, chores, etc. Or you're too tired. Too old. It's too hot. It's too cold. You hate spandex. You hate to sweat. You don't know how to get started or what to do.
Have I covered all of the obvious excuses?
Here's the thing--exercise can be done incrementally. Don't approach it as an arduous, multi-hour event. Got 10 minutes? Alternate every 30 seconds between squats, pushups and jumping jacks or run in place. Build in movement where it seems unlikely (this is a key aspect to the Metabolic Profile action plans I design), such as performing lunges while drying your hair in the morning. Buy yourself a resistance band or two, a jump rope, stability ball or TRX, a couple of pairs of dumbbells and/or a kettlebell, and you've got yourself a home gym that takes up very little space.
Some days, my workouts are done in my driveway while I keep an eye on the kids. Or in the playroom, which also doubles as my exercise studio, where we all get to 'play.' As Theodore Roosevelt so simply stated, "We have to do the best we can, where we are, with what we have."
I'm going to leave you with a challenge: Time how long you spend on social media each day (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and devote at least that same amount of time to exercise. When you realize how much better you feel, increase the duration and/or intensity of your session!
When was the last time you did crunches or sit-ups? Today? This week? Last month? Within the last year?
Whenever it was, I have some good news for you: Unless you are an MMA fighter, soldier, football player, or anyone else involved in fighting or contact sports, you are hereby exempt from performing crunches or sit-ups ever again.
Why? Because they cause more harm than good, and aren't effective for developing overall core stability since they only address the abdominal portion of the core.
According to Stuart McGill, Ph.D.,who is recognized as the world's top spinal researcher, "Enough sit-ups will cause damage in most people." As reported by the University of Waterloo where he is a professor, he discovered that, "crunches and traditional sit-ups place 3,300 newtons (the equivalent of roughly 750 lbs!) of compressive force on the spine when bent in flexion. These forces can squeeze a bent disc’s nucleus to the point that it bulges – pressing on nerves and causing back pain, and potentially leading to a herniated disc."
While this may be old news to some of you, I'm blogging about it because I was approached just recently by two women in my fitness class who wanted me to reiterate the dangers of crunches and sit-ups to their husbands. At the risk of creating marital friction and plenty of spousal, "I told you so's," I explained McGill's findings to the gentlemen who were more receptive than I expected.
I was ready for the obligatory follow-up question, which went something like this: "But if we can't do our beloved crunches and sit-ups that we've been doing since watching Rocky I, what are we to do to strengthen our abs?" First, let's stop obsessing about just the abs and take a big picture approach. How 'bout we perform movements that strengthen the entire core--all the muscles (29 sets!) that attach to the hips, pelvis and lower back.
Those movements include:
This is just the tip of the iceberg on this topic, but it's a good start for now.
If you'd like more information on core-centric strength training, I highly recommend one of my favorite resources: The New Rules of Lifting for Abs by Lou Shuler and Alwyn Cosgrove. It revolutionized how I personally train, and eradicated my lower back pain. Once you order it, let me know if you'd like help with a similar, personalized program.
Today, time yourself holding a front plank for as long as you can. Stop timing when your form collapses (or differs from the depiction above). Write down the length of time held. Continue to practice this daily until you can hold a front plank for at least two minutes. Don't rush this. It may take several weeks or more to build up to this, but don't give up. Report back when you've accomplished this feat!
DID YOU KNOW? According to Men's Health, it takes 22,000 crunches to burn one pound of fat. And for a woman to see her abs, she needs to be down to about 16-18% body fat, while men should be down to 10-12%.
I'm always fascinated by reports about 'fittest,' 'healthiest,' or 'most active' cities because, well, I'm competitive. I want my city to 'represent,' so to speak. I'm pleased that three cities I call home--Charlotte and Raleigh, NC, and Jacksonville, Fl--all made the American College of Sports Medicine's (ACSM) top 50 fittest metropolitan areas for 2014.
According to ACSM, with support from the WellPoint Foundation, the data report, "reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, and community resources and policies that support physical activity."
Now that I'm currently in Jacksonville, let's see if we can earn a higher spot next year! Where do we start? With the "preventive health behaviors" that we can control: move more, eat well, and live freely with a positive attitude!
Here are the rankings:
Rank/Metropolitan Area/2014 Score
1. Washington, D.C. 77.3
2. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. 73.5
3. Portland, Ore. 72.1
4. Denver, Colo. 71.7
5. San Francisco, Calif. 71.0
6. San Jose, Calif. 69.4
7. Seattle, Wash. 69.3
8. San Diego, Calif. 69.2
9. Boston, Mass. 69.1
10. Sacramento, Calif. 66.9
11. Salt Lake City, Utah 65.7
12. Hartford, Conn. 63.8
13. Raleigh, N.C. 61.5
14. Austin, Texas 60.6
15. Chicago, Ill. 56.6
16. Atlanta, Ga. 56.0
17. Pittsburgh, Pa. 54.8
18. Cincinnati, Ohio 54.5
19. Los Angeles, Calif. 53.4
20. Philadelphia, Pa. 52.9
21. Richmond, Va. 52.3
22. Virginia Beach, Va. 52.0
23. Providence, R.I. 51.6
24. New York, N.Y. 51.5
25. Baltimore, Md. 50.8
26. Miami, Fla. 49.0
27. Charlotte, N.C. 48.1
28. Riverside, Calif. 47.5
29. Buffalo, N.Y. 47.2
30. Jacksonville, Fla. 46.6
31. Tampa, Fla. 46.0
32. Milwaukee, Wis. 45.7
33. Cleveland, Ohio 45.4
34. Kansas City, Mo. 45.1
35. Houston, Texas 44.0*
36. Phoenix, Ariz. 44.0*
37. Las Vegas, Nev. 43.7
38. Dallas, Texas 42.6
39. New Orleans, La. 42.4
40. Columbus, Ohio 41.3*
41. St. Louis, Mo. 41.3*
42. Orlando, Fla. 40.8
43. Detroit, Mich. 37.3
44. Birmingham, Ala. 35.9
45. San Antonio, Texas 35.6
46. Nashville, Tenn. 32.5
47. Indianapolis, Ind. 32.3
48. Oklahoma City, Okla. 31.6
49. Louisville, Ky. 25.7
50. Memphis, Tenn. 24.8
*Scores have been rounded to the nearest tenth of a point, resulting in some apparent ties; however, the rankings are based on the full, calculated scores that were not equal in those cases.
(View the full report at: http://www.stonehearthnewsletters.com/acsms-top-50-fittest-metropolitan-areas-index/exercise/#sthash.MdjY81IS.dpuf)
Let's play a little game, shall we? I'd like for you to imagine exercise personified. In fact, let's make it a proper name and capitalize it: Exercise. For the sake of this article, Exercise is male. So far so good?
Now, describe your relationship with Exercise to me. Was he a part of your past--one you think fondly of but never expect to meet again? Was his a short-lived romance, leaving you tingly, sweaty and satisfyingly sore, but bored after a couple of weeks? Did you love him, but the lackluster results of your relationship left you feeling unrequited? Maybe you enjoyed each other equally, but you got too busy and stopped making time for him. Is he someone you see here and there, hoping for more frequent interactions, but are too insecure to make a commitment? Does he hurt you every time he sees you, making you unsure of yourself? Or perhaps you're still waiting to meet him, hoping that life will magically motivate you to seek him. Conversely, maybe you're addicted to him, leaving you insecure, exhausted and desperate.
Did any of those scenarios describe your relationship with Exercise? Do you love him and hate him at the same time? Do you want to break-up and make-up all in the same day (the answer's always yes if you've just done burpees!)? Guess what? Even fitness fanatics are occasionally tempted to trade Exercise for the next best thing (like flirty Mr. Fast n' Cleanse, rich Dr. Injectable or endearing Diet Pill).
But perhaps the better question to ask is, "How would you describe your relationship with your body?" Because when you consider that, the issue is much less about whether you love or hate Exercise, and much more about whether you love or hate your body. When you hate your body, you're likely going to dislike Exercise, because it makes you very aware of yourself, and your perceived limitations and flaws. Or it may make you obsessed with Exercise, as you seek to run from the body you've been given.
However, when you love your body--imperfections and all--your relationship with Exercise becomes healthy, supportive and nurturing. It brings out the best in you. It makes you want to go on double dates with Good Nutrition and Rest.
Within the next 24 hours, what's one thing you can do to start restoring your love for your body again? Get more sleep tonight? Eat a healthy breakfast? Make time for a little exercise? Avoid snacking on junk food? If you're feeling particularly amorous, pick two!
Perform as many burpees or squat thrusts (squat thrusts are burpees without the jump at the top) as you can in 20 secs. Rest for 10 secs. Repeat for 8 rounds. (Challenge option 1: Add a pushup at the bottom of the burpee. Option 2: hold a low squat during each 10 sec rest.)
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I am not a registered dietitian, nor a medical professional. My blog is a representation of my views and experiences, which are not intended as medical advice. While I am a certified personal trainer, descriptions of things I eat and exercises I perform may not be suitable for everyone. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine.