A recent study in the Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics found conclusively that for teenagers between the ages of 14-18, a combination of weight training plus cardiovascular work is the best way to “fight teen obesity”. This is the headlines that went up all over the country and internet saying that the amazing findings of this study were that if teenagers did strength training and cardio work combined instead of just one or the other, they would lose more weight.
This is news?
I hate to say it but that was my first reaction. However, when I took a closer look at this study I found that there were in my opinion some flaws in the methods used to determine this conclusion.
Basically this study, which you can read HERE took 304 overweight teens and put them into four groups, one of each doing only strength training OR cardio, one doing nothing, and one doing a combination. They did this program for 22 weeks (almost six months!). They were also given diet counselling. At the end, the group that did the combination of both was found to have lost less body fat overall (compared to the strength training group), but their waist size decreased the most – by a whole centimeter. That’s not even one whole pant size.
Therefore this shows that a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training is better than strength training alone or cardio alone. Again, this isn’t news to anyone (I sincerely hope). This has been proven time and again to be the best approach for those of you out there who are looking to drop inches and pounds.
But when we look a little closer, the criteria for what they consider “overweight” has some flaws. They cited overweight as at or above 95th percentile of BMI or 85th if there was one or more risk factors or health condition already existing (like diabetes). So this means that a teenager with a BMI of above 28.5 (the cutoff for 95th highest BMI percentile according to statisticians) is overweight or obese.
Do you know what that means? An 18 year old who is 5’10” and 180 pounds qualifies for this study as an “overweight teen”. A BMI of 24 actually falls into the 85th percentile of qualification. So if my daughter is 5’3” and weighs 135 pounds according to this study she is overweight. Oh, and another note – when she turns 18, even if she is the same height and weight suddenly she has dropped to the 74th percentile. Does that make sense?
Pretty much any athletic teen is going to weigh at last that much and sometimes more. Using BMI as a method of overweight is a highly flawed criteria in my opinion. There’s a lot of other flaws. They obviously weren’t all following the same diet. Who knows how many workouts they actually completed on their own. It didn’t indicate if any of them were athletes previously, inactive or high level performers. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch for a 16 year old football player to be 5’8 and 160 pounds but have very low body fat and high muscle mass.
So this made national (actually international) news because we heard about it up here in Canada. I guess it was a slow news cycles, what with war in the Middle East and a deadly epidemic spreading around the world.
The simple fact is that kids today don’t get enough exercise. Currently 59% of adults in Canada are overweight or obese in Canada (as of 2012). We can blame a lot of things here. Increased screen time, lack of physical education and after school sports programs, deteriorating nutrition both at home and at school and simply the fact that overweight parents tend to have overweight children because kids learn many things from their parents, not the least of which is eating habits. The medical industry unfortunately can’t or won’t help because many doctors have no clue about proper diet and exercise habits themselves. Many doctors I have worked with or attended have been relatively clueless about these things because it really isn’t their job to know about it even though they are expected to.
However, if you do have a young teenager or someone younger at home then the good news is you can keep their weight down. Guess what’s a great way to get both cardio and resistance exercise without a gym?
Whether your kid is an individual sport kid (like I was – I ran track, did cross country skiing and played all racquet sports) or a team sport kid (like my sister who played basketball and hockey) there are a couple of dozen options available for each type. And even if the cost is prohibitive to a budget for things like hockey, there are tons of community resources available in any city for parents who want affordable exercise for their kids. Even something like martial arts isn’t ridiculously expensive, teaches really great fundamentals of coordination, discipline and uses lots of strength at the same time. Finding time as a busy parent can be hard, but what’s the priority – a healthy, happy kid or a promotion at work?
The sad thing is that I have trained kids as young as 8 and 10, and they could barely balance enough to walk slowly on a treadmill. Kids just simply don’t learn these things when they are developing any more. I could go on a rant about parenting and education these days but I’ll save that for another time.
So if you have a teen that is struggling with weight, maybe a good option is to get them to put down the Ipad, register them for a few sports or activities to see what they enjoy doing and get them being active and moving around more. Long term they will be much better off for so many reasons. Maybe even do it with them if you need help as well. Things like martial arts or even group exercise are easy to do with your teenager. Take your kid for a run or a bike ride on the weekends instead of staying inside. Take the whole family out for a long hike without any technology.
Like I said at the beginning, it isn’t news that kids need more exercise, or that a combination of things is likely to help them lose that extra centimeter. But it starts with actually getting them involved with exercise.
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After reading about the latest company promoting a 24 day challenge that guarantees amazing results and can totally change your life, I realized that I have been really missing the boat. Obviously if you can create a program that causes people to feel better, lose weight and inches quickly and also make money at the same time it’s going to be a huge success. Therefore I decided to put together my own 30 Day challenge to provide people with an amazing new revolutionary way to do all of these things. I don’t know if I should just release this to the general public, but since I am typically a generous soul I decided to share my amazing new secrets with the public and give them the help that they need in order to be fitter, healthier and happier. Are you ready for this? It only takes 30 days and you will be a totally new person!
Okay, Step One:
Go into your cupboards and fridge and throw out everything that is packaged, didn’t at one point have eyes or wasn’t grown or made from something from the ground. You may find that your cupboards and fridge have suddenly gotten really empty. This is a tough challenge, but you don’t have to spend two hundred dollars a month or sign up for auto ship – just throw it out once, which is basically the same thing. So that leads us to Step Two:
Go to the grocery store. See those different coloured things called vegetables to your right as you walk in? Buy lots of them. So many that you can’t even see the bottom of your cart. And lots of different colours too. Then go to the butcher section and buy a bunch of that stuff too. Watch the butcher actually cut it up in front of you. Buy some white stuff, some pink stuff and some more white stuff. If it had a beak or gills at one point it’s a bonus. Then, go to the checkout aisle without going anywhere else. Can you do it? Can you make your cart turn left before the cookie aisle? I know it’s tough, but you wouldn’t have signed up unless you were totally committed and amazing, right?
Oh, and you have to do this more than once a week. So if you don’t have time then watch less TV or don’t post on Instagram for an hour and go back to the grocery store. You might actually have to go twice or three times in a single week. That’s why I said this was a challenge.
Step Three: Cook stuff. Don’t cook it in a microwave; don’t pull it out of a box and plastic wrap. Put it in an oven. Or slow cooker. Or barbeque. Or steamer. Leave it there for a bit of time. Or don’t cook it and eat it raw (not the butcher stuff though). Oh, you don’t have to do this every day – if you are smart about it and cook three days’ worth at once. I promise it won’t kill you. Put it in that cold thing in the kitchen that is designed to store things and keep them fresh.
Step Four: Eat the food. Eat a bit of animal stuff and a lot of vegetable stuff. For every meal, even breakfast. I know – your body might explode if you don’t have cereal or toast for breakfast, but I want you to take that risk because you’re hardcore and fully committed. Oh, and if you don’t eat breakfast now, eat it anyway. I know it makes you feel sick to actually eat before noon, but push yourself! You’re awesome! Oh, and you have to take stuff to work too. It might make your bag really, really heavy but that’s all part of the challenge!
Step Four: Don’t drink anything that isn’t water or coffee or tea coloured. And no, that doesn’t mean water coloured paints or Coke or whiskey because it’s brown. There are rules here. Drink until you have to pee. And it’s not a dark colour. Keep drinking until you’re peeing a lot. See, even your bladder is getting into the challenge!
Step Five: Exercise. Put on those things with soles that sit by your front door and go outside. If it’s -25, go to the mall. Walk there. Hell, walk up and down your stairs. Set a timer for 30 minutes and just keep doing stuff that involves movement until it beeps. I know, I know, it’s another 30 minutes you could be pretending to do work at your desk. But this challenge is meant to separate the committed from the uncommitted. I know you’re committed! I know you can do it!
If you have a gym membership, actually walk into the door. Once you’re there, pick some stuff up and put it down. Then do it again until you’re tired. You can use the black things, the long skinny things and even the really complicated looking big pieces of stuff.
Okay, so we’re at the end of Day 1. Having fun yet? Okay, now your challenge is to do this. Every. Single. Day. For 30 days. I know it sounds totally incredible that regular people like you can actually do this. At the end of it, you won’t believe your eyes! Then you can help me sign up more people for this amazing program.
Does it sound simple? Does it sound ridiculous? Does it sound like anybody can do it? Not just anyone can do this, it takes a special breed of person, but I know that you are definitely that person. That’s why I’m sharing this amazing new program with you, and only you. Feel free to PayPal me $50 to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to sign up and learn more about this amazing offer!
As many of you know, I had a beautiful baby girl four months ago. What many of you also can probably relate to is the total chaos that your life becomes when a new life that is totally dependent on you enters it. Now that the smoke has cleared a bit, there are some serious lessons I have learned so far. It is amazing how many of these things also apply to those of you who are trying to make fitness and health a regular part of your life so I thought I would outline them and give some tips for managing things when it seems like absolutely nothing is manageable:
- Prioritizing is essential.
I’m very lucky that I make my own hours and can (sort of) control my own schedule. When you’re dealing with your child, they are obviously going to take precedence over most other things (sometimes everything). Too many people in my experience put fitness and health too low on their priority radar when it should be much higher. If you aren’t healthy, you can’t take care of yourself or your family. If you have no energy, you can’t jump out of bed on those nights when the baby cries at 2am. If you have a bad back or bad knees, you can’t hold/pick up your kids or the mountains of bags they generate. After holding an infant for hours in a Baby Bjorn even my back was killing me, which was a sign that I needed to start working on my lower back strength a bit more. You might have areas that need the same thing.
- Think about the long term, don’t obsess about the short term
Any good fitness and health program is a period of months, if not years – and should really be a permanent part of your life, just like your new little one. Development and progress can be drawn out over a period of time. Ask my wife after our little one just got through her first two baby teeth! Children develop at their own pace and can be encouraged but not forced, just like your body. Give everything time to settle into place and develop at whatever pace works best. Set goals that stretch over months and seasons, not a “90 day challenge” where at the end you go back to doing whatever you were doing before. Check back with yourself in a year and you might be pleasantly surprised.
- Patience is a virtue and remain calm
Not everything is going to go smoothly. Your routine might suddenly get thrown completely out of whack when changes occur. You might have to deal with setbacks or situations you can’t control and the best thing to do is just stay calm, make sure all of the right strategies are in place and keep moving forward. Don’t hit the panic button after a bad week and try to change everything around. If you have a good trainer, simply trust in the process. Even when your child poops in the middle of the doctors’ office, sometimes you just have to laugh it off, stay calm and realize that there is nothing you can do about it so why worry? Clean up the poop, change the diaper and next time, make sure to pack an extra change of clothes.
- Expect to hit bumps in the road and have setbacks
Sometimes as a new parent it is easy to get frustrated. Things can be humming along in a good routine and then something crops up that makes it hard or stops progress. If you expect and prepare for this ahead of time then you will be much better off. Can’t make a workout? Have a backup plan. Have to suddenly travel one week? Make sure your hotel has a gym or research local places you can get in your exercise. Teething and growth spurts for us was a prime example of this when you can’t keep the baby from being uncomfortable. Just realize what is going on and also realize that it is a temporary thing that will resolve itself in time.
- Enjoy yourself along the way
For every exasperating moment we might have with our daughter, seeing her smile at the start of the day and cuddle into your chest is probably the best thing in the world. Find that aspect of fitness that makes you feel really good – that class you love, the feeling after you hit a personal best on the weight stack, the runners’ high – and remember that every time so that you stay motivated and just keep going. Like I said before, it is a process that should take place for the rest of your life, just like watching your child grow and develop.
At the end of four months you never realize how much your life can change for the better but now we can’t imagine what our lives were like without our daughter. Think about that the next time you think about skipping a workout because ideally it will almost feel the same way. Better health and wellness to all of you!