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2005/06/19 Health and Exercise

© June 2005 Tony Lawrence

This past Thursday my wife and I stopped at the Ludlow rest stop on the Mass Pike. We needed a late lunch or early supper, and Boston Market has reasonably healthy choices available. We shared our meal; what Boston Market considers an meal for one person is more than enough to feed both of us, though I suspect most Americans probably don't think it's enough for even one person.

As we finished our meal, a man about our age (mid to late fifties or so) collapsed to the floor. At first, people just thought he had tripped or perhaps fainted and were trying to help him up, but quickly realized that he was not breathing. There was a first year medical student in the crowd and she determined that he had no pulse. Fortunately she and another student had CPR equipment in their car, which they rushed to get while other people called 911. While we all waited for the police and ambulance, these two valiantly tried chest compression and resuscitation. A surgeon joined them at some point and helped also, but they couldn't get a pulse and couldn't seem to get air into his lungs.

The ambulance eventually arrived. I don't know why I had to yell at other people to help me hold the doors so that the EMT's could get in that much quicker - seconds count when someone isn't breathing or pumping blood - but never mind that. People are stupid, I understand. I don't understand the ones who were so stupid as to crowd around peering into the scene as the EMT's attemted to use a defibrillator, and I don't understand why I had to call for door help again as they took him out on the stretcher.

I don't know whether this man lived or died. He was a long time without heart-beat, and I don't know how much compression can make up for that. I'm sure it didn't help that this man had the enormous pot-belly typical on so many American men. I don't know why he collapsed; it may have had nothing to do with his weight. But it can't help, can it?

And then, as we walked to our car, we noticed several of the crowd that had been watching waddling back to their own cars. We couldn't help thinking that each of these overweight and obviously out of shape people could themselves be surrounded by EMT's and gaping on-lookers.

Computer folk often have sedentary lives. Some of the brightest people I know are the most stupid about their own health. Your body needs exercise. It doesn't have to be extreme; twenty minutes of relaxing walking is something almost everyone can do and even that little bit can make a difference in your health. As to overweight, yes, I know that some people have glandular problems or genetic predispositions to weight gain. Surely ALL the enormous people I see don't have these excuses, do they?

Please: take care of yourself. Watch what you eat, and how much you eat. Do at least a little walking every day. You'll feel better, you'll even think better, and you'll be with us longer.

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Sun Jun 19 15:35:15 2005: 669   BigDumbDinosaur

Computer folk often have sedentary lives.

How true. I've spent far more time than I care to track seated at a keyboard and typing away (especially when writing code). So what I do is set an alarm on my computer (done via a combination of a winpopup script on the server and a cron job) to alert me that it's time to get up and walk around a bit. Also, my wife and I go for a 10-20 minute walk after dinner (weather permitting), which not only helps to work off a calorie or two, but gives us an opportunity to talk about whatever pops up, as well as see what our neighbors are doing with their flowers, etc.

As to overweight, yes, I know that some people have glandular problems or genetic predispositions to weight gain. Surely ALL the enormous people I see don't have these excuses, do they?

Actually, a genetic predisposition to weight problems is a rare occurrence, so most of the "enormous people" you see in public have gotten that way due to eating too much and not exercising enough. Forget the excuses: weight gain can only occur when one consumes more calories than burned. Even those who have health issues that tend to accelerate weight gain can maintain control, if they choose to do so.

On his show, Jay Leno is fond of making fun of the growing childhood obesity problem in the USA. However, he's not exactly being light-hearted (no pun intended) about it -- in fact, he can be quite serious about what is perceived to be a widespread (again, no pun intended) issue. I see far too many kids eating crap instead of healthy food, and the only exercise they seem to get is that of pushing buttons on an electronic game, or whining when mom or dad says "No" to whatever it is the kid wants. A lot of it is just plain lack of exercise. The kinds of activities that we did when we were kids seem to have fallen by the wayside: sandlot baseball (I always played right field because my vision was poor and I had trouble catching the ball), hiking through the woods, having bicycle races, etc. A lot of this I blame on parents who take the easy, lazy way out and let their kids have or do whatever they want, instead of imposing some discipline and insisting that the child eat properly and exercise regularly.

I too have had the misfortune to witness some poor soul collape in a public place and, on occasion, die, despite the gallant efforts of EMTs. More often than not, the "victim" was obese, sometimes morbidly so, and possibly a smoker as well (smoking and obesity: a sure way to a heart attack). It's difficult to avoid concluding that excessive weight may have played a role in that individual's demise.

Now, I don't claim to have the physique of an Olympic athlete. If anything, I'm more like Hulk Hogan, but with less muscle mass (and less hair). I'm late middle-age, spend a lot of time on my duff at a computer, and while I do exercise, it's not a formal, in-the-gym sort of regimen. However, both my wife and I watch what we eat, limit our intake of red meat, avoid fast food, and avoid being sedentary. As I said above, we walk after dinner, and often, because we both like trains, we inadvertently get a good workout going to and participating in various railroading activities. We're hoping that by continuing to do so we'll maintain a good quality of life well into old age.

Given the alarming rate at which childhood obesity is expanding (Oh no! Another of those puns!), it's probably safe to say that today's fat kids will probably become tomorrow's obese adults, who upon reaching middle age, will suffer from type II diabetes (which can cause serious or potentially fatal health problems), and one day, may end up laying on a restaurant floor being worked on by EMT's, and being gawked at by morbid spectators.


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