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Biomarker Reminder

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg are Tufts University researchers interested in the measurable parameters that keep humans healthy and fit over an entire life span.  They have determined that the top four biomarkers are:

  1. Muscle Mass.  The percentage of your body that is made of muscle.
  2. Strength.  Can you use that muscle to push, pull, lift and carry.
  3. Basal Metabolic Rate.  The number of calories your body expends at rest.
  4. Body fat Percentage.  What percentage of your body is composed of fat.

The authors named these top four biomarkers, the decisive tetrad.  They are the prerequisites to maintaining healthy numbers in all of the other essential biomarkers.

  1. Aerobic Capacity
  2. Blood Sugar Tolerance
  3. Cholesterol / HDL ratio
  4. Blood Pressure
  5. Bone Density
  6. Internal Body Temperature Regulation

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg coined the term age related sarcopenia in their 1991 book Biomarkers.  It refers to the gradual loss of muscle mass that occurs as we age.  The keys to aging well, staying durable–no injuries, and maintaining control of all health parameters is maintaining or improving muscle mass / strength and eating properly.  An ongoing program of strength training and nutritional discipline are the foremost components of fitness and health.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

McDonald’s has decided to forgo any attempts at healthy menu choices and is embracing its true identity. In an effort to win back market share, they are expanding into home delivery. Soon your order will be taken online and an Uber driver will deliver your Big Mac, fries, and a shake with none of the bothersome human movement formerly involved in consuming 1300 calories of McDonald’s products. Is it any wonder America is losing the War on Obesity? Every day, “food companies” like McDonald’s are devising methods that make consuming their creations more convenient. The March 1, 2017 article in the Wall Street Journal by Julie Jargon, McDonald’s Decides to Embrace Fast-Food Identity explains.

–Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Listen to a podcast from the author, Julie Jargon here: http://www.wsj.com/podcasts/mcdonald-embraces-its-fast-food-identity/4B982D2D-B4E9-4AC3-BD15-D3E292E9507A.html

Fitness Freedom For All


This election marathon drones on, and neither of our present candidates has expressed an interest in the health or fitness of the average American citizen.  “Making Americans Strong Again” is the slogan of my candidacy and this is my platform.  All of these programs would cut the costs of health care, battle the obesity epidemic, and more equitably share the fitness wealth.

Triple the tax on all tobacco products.  Nicotine is the most addictive chemical on the planet and it produces a tremendous burden on the American health care system.  Use the tobacco tax dollars and the health care savings achieved with a reduction in the number of addicts to pay for all aspects of my program.  Currently 19% of the USA population admits to smoking and conservative estimates are that tobacco users add another 210 billion dollars a year to our health care costs.

Outlaw every aspect of tobacco advertising–no exceptions.  Tobacco is a horror that should have been dealt with years ago.  Spend some time with a patient afflicted with esophageal, tonsil, tongue, or oral cancer and you will understand.

I thank Dr. John Ratey the author of the 2008 book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain for the Brain Function Equation.

Consistent Exercise + Healthy Metabolism = Better Mental Function

More of the brain is devoted to movement than language.  If we wish to fully develop our intellectual capacity, we need to work on maintaining optimal “physical literacy”.  Dr. Ratey has documented how school programs use consistent exercise to produce better test scores in all academic subjects.

The healthy metabolism portion of the above equation is driven by nutrition.  Ask any coach who has worked on body composition goals with fitness clients and they will tell you that meal preparation is a lost art.  Cooking classes, instruction on portion size, and how to use an appliance other than a microwave would go a long way to improve the average American’s health.

The government should support the participation of its citizens, young and old, in health promoting activities.  The school systems are too stressed with the demands of teaching standardized math, science, and the latest version of history.  Americans should be given a tax incentive or vouchers toward instructional classes and training programs that are supplied by private businesses.  As physical literacy improves and the average citizen’s metabolism becomes healthier, perhaps we will become capable of picking better candidates.

America’s military readiness is impacted by the physical weakness of our citizens.  It is estimated that only one in four Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 meet the requirements for service.  The big barriers are obesity and fitness related health concerns such as hypertension and diabetes.  The US Army and Navy scaled back the physical performance requirements and are still unable to find soldiers that can pass the new standards.  As a nation, we need to address the profound loss of fitness in our youth.

Allow all Americans to fully deduct the cost of gym memberships for themselves and their families.  Permit businesses to fully deduct the cost of memberships for their workers.  We know citizens that exercise stay healthier, require less medical care, and place less fiscal stress on the American health care system.  Gym attendance makes health care in America more “affordable” by keeping citizens fit.  The government should reward the good behavior of the citizens attempting to take care of their health.

Our elected officials in Washington are provided with access to fitness facilities and trainers.  Separate facilities for the House and Senate complete with pools, basketball courts, saunas, and steam rooms are provided for past and present politically elected officials.  Our Senators and Representatives utilize state of the art fitness centers and their constituents (you and me) subsidize the payment for these facilities and services.  Our political leaders value fitness and have deemed it a necessary occupational benefit.  Let them help their fellow countrymen share in the benefits of fitness.

The technology exists that will turn off a mobile phone if it is moving in a car.  Please read the recent article in the New York Times* by Matt Richtel.  As your new president, this app would be beamed into every automobile.  The most dangerous thing an average American does in their day is climb into a car.  Mobile phones have made automobile travel much more dangerous.  For many people, the mobile phone is an impulsive addiction they are unable to control.  We will never get compliance without blocking the device.

I know, I am a technophobe, social media hater, and an old geezer who is just now using e-mail.  What I do hate is the driver who kills or injures a fellow American because they are distracted by the twitterverse.  Blocking the mobile phone while traveling in a car may have the unintended consequence of restoring the lost art of conversation–you remember talking, don’t you?  While cruising along on this brief bit of magic we call life, you do not want the final sound you hear to be the beep or ring from your cell phone.

There are many professions in which a person’s physical fitness is directly related to job performance.  Fire fighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and construction workers all have physically demanding jobs that require a higher level of strength and mobility.  It seems logical that maintaining a strong, well functioning body would be an occupational expense not dissimilar to many of the other permissible tax deductions currently available to business.  A yearly fitness voucher for these professionals would decrease the cost of worker’s compensation, improve job performance, and enhance productivity.  These vouchers could be used to hire fitness professionals or pay for gym memberships and fitness programs.

A “shovel ready” project that requires little in the way of engineering and creates ongoing health benefit is bicycle path construction.  A bicycle path keeps riders and runners a safe distance from cars and encourages a fitness activity that is also very “eco friendly”.  Most European countries have invested heavily in this infrastructure, and the use of bicycles is far more prevalent in areas that have developed a bicycle path system.  I propose a USA Pathway Project that would create jobs, make Americans healthier, improve bicycle rider /pedestrian safety, and reduce our carbon footprint.

Many Americans live in what I call “fitness deserts”.  There is no safe place to walk, no park, no gym, and no recreational facilities.  I was fortunate to grow up in a town that had a city run summer recreation program.  We had access to basketball courts, tennis courts, and playgrounds with swings, monkey bars, and slides.  Elect me your next president and construction would begin on day one.

If exercise could be packaged as a prescription pill, it would be the most widely utilized medication in the history of health care.  Doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants counsel their patients that they need to exercise, but they are unable to provide the type of instruction and support the patient needs to be successful.  Our health insurance companies face mandates for medical coverage of many diseases and illnesses that would be reduced or alleviated with consistent exercise.  Insurance companies should have to pay for the medically prescribed exercise programs as part of our new “mandatory health care coverage”.

The elected representatives that have given us mandatory health insurance coverage should have to live with the same plans now available to the average American citizen.  Let them enroll in the programs available in the states they represent.  Let them pay yearly 15 – 25% increases in premiums.  Let them carry a $4000 – $8000 deductible for each member of their family.  Let the Congressman and Senators families wait for a pre- approval of diagnostic tests and specialists.  Instead, they are provided with a lifetime of the finest medical coverage while the citizens they represent must figure out how to manage shrinking benefits and rising costs.  This simple piece of legislation would greatly improve the level of attention given to the quality of health care coverage in this country

I have been sharing these ideas with politicians for years but have never gotten any response.  They are probably very busy working out at the gym.

*The New York Times, “Phone Makers Could Cut Off Drivers. So Why Don’t They?” by Matt Richtel, September 24, 2016. View the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/25/technology/phone-makers-could-cut-off-drivers-so-why-dont-they.html?_r=0

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

A Little Realistic Reasoning

Worst:  I want to lose weight.
gym photoMost people are not successful in losing weight with exercise.  The ones who are have generally been diligent in following a disciplined nutritional regimen and this was the reason the numbers on the scale went down.  Now whether the reduction was good—fat loss, or bad—bone and muscle loss, we do not know, but exercise alone is generally a poor method of weight loss.  Not losing any weight is a primary reason people stop participating in an exercise program.

Best: I want to stay healthy.
Two thirds of the American population get no regular physical activity.  The adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle have been proven.  Physical inactivity is far more debilitating than most of us realize.  One way or another, you will end up spending time and money on your health.  Spend it up front with exercise and proper education, or spend it later on medical tests, disease treatments, and doctors’ bills.  The good news is you get to choose.

Worst:  I want six pack abs.
This is probably not going to happen no matter how hard most of us train.  Body fat levels have to get down to well below 12 percent to see an outline of the abdominal muscles.  Twelve percent for men is low and for women it may be unhealthy.

Best:  I want my brain to function at high levels.
Lots of new research has been done on exercise and its effect on the brain.  The animal and human research subjects that perform the most physical activity have the best scores on brain function tests.  Read the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by Dr. John J. Ratey.  I would rather have a pumped frontal cortex and a jacked hippocampus than chiseled abs.

Worst:  I am making up for eating like an idiot.
You can’t out run a cookie.  It is much easier to ingest more calories than burn them off with exercise.  The damage caused by a diet filled with bad food, alcohol, and tobacco cannot be magically counter balanced with an hour on the elliptical or a step class.  Success with exercise has a huge psychological component.  Several studies have shown it is difficult to stay consistent with exercise if you mentally approach it as punishment for bad behavior.

Best:  I want to feel good for a long time.
Move well and you feel well.  If you can maintain the capacity to get off the floor, squat, lunge, and rotate, you will be far less likely to have pain.  Rarely do I evaluate a patient with shoulder, neck, knee, or lower back pain and not find a glaring loss of mobility or strength.  Maintaining the ability to move should be a lifelong pursuit for anyone interested in staying active and independent into old age.

-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS