Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The softest, bestest fluffy kitties I have personally seen

Okay, this isn't about anything fluffy or feline. It's about the amount of information on about fitness, diet, sleep and, indeed anything health related. The timing of these news items is interesting in that many of us are thick into our new year's resolutions and so these news items will be well read.

Canadians, it seems, are hungry for information. According to one of the articles, about 41% of Canadians are turning to the Internet for medical and health information. Experts are referring to this trend of trusting Internet medical advice as consulting "Dr. Google". Now, I have no problems whatsoever in doing medical research. I research health issues myself and have learned a lot about MS, diet, exercise and a whole host of other matters. However, I don't take any information I find online as gospel. Internet medical information is not a substitute for consulting an actual, genuine, carbon-based human medical doctor, I feel.

Another disturbing statistic circulating around these days is that a mere 12% of children are getting the recommended 90 minutes of daily exercise. Twelve percent! But then, look at the role models. According to this same news item, most adults are only getting about 2 hours per week of exercise; nowhere near the recommended 60 minutes per day. So, to address this alarming situation, the national guidelines for fitness are being - uh - changed (read: reduced). Now, kids will be encouraged to get a mere 60 minutes per day with the role model adults being equally encouraged to get 150 minutes per week. Per week. Presumably, lowering the bar will - somehow - encourage people to get more exercise. Maybe a lot of people felt that the current guidelines were too stringent and made everyone feel like failures. Personally, I have never met any fitness standards. I do what I can do as do we all...but a healthy goal is just that, a goal and no one will expel you from the human race because you only got 140 minutes of exercise last week. Lowering the standards will only result in more people doing less because there is less to achieve. Think about it in this way - would you feel comfortable visiting a doctor who got 51% in Biology? Sure, she or he would have met the standards but are those standards good enough?

The good news (of course there is good news) lies in this article. Here we see an article describing what to look for when studying the nutritional assay of food items which we all do to some degree. Specifically, we are given set amounts of nutrients and chemicals to look for and in what amounts. What the article does not seem to mention, however, is serving size. One of the commenters does mention the need to consider serving sizes and I think that is a very wise point. Susan Powter, author of the book Stop the Insanity, well known nutrition and fitness guru from the 1990s had emphasized the issue of portion sizes. If, for instance, you want to eat a slice of ham which has 18 calories in it and only 1 gram of fat that translates to 9 calories or 50% of the total calorie count coming from fat. "PER SLICE", she would shout and she was right. Portion control has been a lost cause since 7-11 came up with a drink called the "Big Gulp". Anyone else remember that one? Either you and twelve of your closest friends could have your thirst quenched (and share cold sores if you wanted to) or else you could only drink the whole thing if you had a bladder the size of a soccer ball.

So, here we are, January 2011 and armed with lots of nutritional and health information. What do we do about it? Personally, I think we should do with this information what we do with all information - take it with a grain of salt. If I eat a balanced diet and a variety of foods from the food groups; if I drink water (and not a Big Gulp's worth either) and stay hydrated; if I make it a point to balance rest/sleep with a good walk as often as I can then I don't have to concern myself with fitness guidelines or worry about whether I'm getting enough sleep at night.

Finally, it's important to keep in mind that guidelines are just that - they're guidelines not hard-lines which, if not met, will spell your imminent doom before breakfast tomorrow. Lowering guidelines won't fool anyone into getting more exercise; you can't bribe, cajole or otherwise guilt anyone into getting more or even any exercise. The key here, is to take small steps and make small adjustments. Good work takes time so let's just give ourselves that time.

Oh, and in case you were wondering about the title. I had mentioned to Adam that I was going to write another blog post. He asked what the subject was this time and I said it would be about health, fitness and nutrition (or something along those lines). I then reassured him that it would be topical and that it wouldn't be about something irrelevant like 'fluffy kitties I have liked'. So, in the spirit of humour, I gave this blog post a totally irrelevant name but kept to my promised topic. However, I have also included a picture of our late cat, Zuby. She was a long haired and very fluffy cat with a nasty snarling disposition...but she was still really fluffy anyway!

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