Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Don't Think People Understand the Importance of Exercise

The thing that bugs me most about my fellow coworkers is the frequency that a few of them call out sick. Now, I entirely understand that people do actually get sick from time to time. Moreover, I'm not talking about someone that develops some kind of chronic disease like an autoimmune disorder or something rare and random like that. However, we have several people on our staff that call out every single week, and it always seems like it's for the stupidest reasons.

"I have a cold."

"My back hurts."

"I'm nauseous."

I also see a number of my friends who are constantly getting sick and complaining about being sick. I think I'm starting to detect a pattern...

OVERWEIGHT people who live a SEDENTARY lifestyle get sick far more often than people who exercise regularly.

I know that the medical community has known this for quite some time. However, I'm writing about it now because it has become so abundantly clear when comparing myself to the people around me.

I've mentioned in this blog before that I rarely get sick. I've never called out sick for work a day in my life. I haven't taken an antibiotic or gotten a prescription filled since I was a freshman in college 9 years ago, and that was for a relatively minor sinus infection that had I known then what I do now, I wouldn't have gotten that prescription either. I don't get headaches. I don't get the sniffles. I get a minor sore throat and a stuffy nose maybe once or twice a year, usually in the winter months, and the symptoms usually go away on their own within 2 or 3 days.

As I also stated before, I take absolutely no special precautions to avoid germs. I don't shy away from contact with other people. I don't constantly wipe everything down with alcohol. I don't carry a bottle of Purell with me wherever I go. I don't excessively wash my hands every 5 minutes. Basically, I don't do any of the things that germophobes do, yet I find that they happen to get sick much more often than me.

The only reason that I can come up with to account for my resistance to colds is that I exercise quite regularly, and, for the most part, my diet is relatively healthy. I do slip from time to time, splurging on pizza or a restaurant like Chili's maybe once a week. I also have a weakness for Octoberfest beer, but the season will be over soon, and I can cut those empty calories out of my diet too. Other than those few indulgences, my diet consists mainly of chicken, brown rice, eggs, broccoli, oranges, bananas, whole wheat bread, and milk.

I do some form of exercise almost every day. I follow a body weight workout routine 3 days per week. In between workout days, I try to get in a session of high intensity interval training (HIIT). However, HIIT generally leaves me feeling like I want to die after about 10 minutes (and that's how it's supposed to feel), so if my legs aren't quite up to it, I substitute going down to the park and shooting some hoops for 45 minutes to an hour. Saturdays are usually my rest days, but many times I'll go shoot hoops or some other form of light exercise for a little bit. On Sundays, I usually play a couple hours of full-court basketball in the morning.

That is a routine week for me. I don't even feel like I'm in that great of shape. However, compared to the average person, I'm like an Olympic athlete. Everytime when I hear the regular absentees call out of work sick again, all I can think is that maybe if they got off their asses and exercised every once in a while, they might be healthier (as in sick less frequently).

Really, it doesn't take long to work out. My body weight routine takes me 45 minutes. HIIT takes 10 to 15 minutes at the absolute most (trust me, if you're doing it right, you're not going longer than 15 minutes) 2 or 3 times per week, and that will take care of your cardio. That's a total of 3 hours of exercise per week right there. No, it's not professional athlete level, but it's sufficient to maintaining some form of physical fitness. No one can say they don't have 3 hours per week they can devote to exercise.

I've ranted about health care several times on my blog. As everyone who reads my endless drivel knows, I'm a proponent of Universal Health Care. However, I feel the absolute most important thing we can do as a nation to improve our health care is to do a better job teaching people how to be healthy. We need to start at a young age and stress the importance of exercise. We need to begin teaching children as early as elementary school how to eat right. We have wars against drugs and smoking, but when it comes to the food we eat and our level of exercise, we seem to be very passive. Eating right and routinely exercising are probably the single best way to improve the health of the nation. Healthier people spend less money on health care. Healthier people are more productive at work. Hell, healthier people are happier people in general.

I work in a grocery store, so it's quite common for me to hear overweight, out-of-shape people trying to decide what and how much to eat by reading the caloric content and other nutritional facts on a box of muffins or crackers. I still get shocked when I see people pushing around carriages full of regular Coke or Pepsi. Maybe it's because I gave up regular soda so long ago, but I'm shocked that people still buy non-diet soda.

I understand if people are confused over which kinds of fats (saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, trans) are unhealthy. Nutritionists can't even seem to decide what kind of fats are bad for you. However, I thought everyone knew that all the added sugar in soda was unhealthy. Maybe everyone does know that, but they just don't care. That's probably the case, and honestly, I think that's a tragedy. People shell out big bucks for medication in this country, but in many cases, the most effective way to treat their conditions is lifestyle modification. For example, people with metabolic syndrome will probably be on a statin for cholesterol, an antihypertensive, and/or an oral diabetes medication like metformin or glipizide. However, want to know the absolute best way for these people to improve their health and prolong their lives? LOSE WEIGHT THROUGH EXERCISE AND EATING HEALTHY.

It's easier to take the pill though, isn't it? Medication is becoming a way for people to, once again, shift responsibility away from themselves. Even the way the medical community names these "diseases" shifts blame. For example, metabolic syndrome makes it sound like something that just randomly went wrong with your body. If you have high cholesterol, heart disease, and insulin insensitivity, it's not because you're overweight and out of shape. It's because you have this "syndrome." So you go and take medication to treat your "syndrome," but that medication better work well and not cause any side effects or else you'll go screaming to doctors, pharmacists, and pharmaceutical companies about how they're trying to kill you with these dangerous drugs.

Let's shift the blame back where it belongs. Instead of calling it "metabolic syndrome," let's call it the "Disease of the Obese and Inactive." Instead of prescribing drugs, you prescribe proper diet and routine exercise. Tell them that they're the ones who got fat and out of shape, and the situation will not go away or improve unless they lose weight and exercise.

Of course, this would be bad for business in the world of pharmacy, so maybe I really don't wish that. I sort of like feeling like I have a super human immune system. I also like having a job, so I guess I retract everything I've said up to this point.


Anonymous said...

I think diet soda tastes nasty and they still haven't proven to me that these "fake" sugars are safe, I'd rather have real sugar. But usually I drink water, so the point is moot.

Pharmacy Mike said...

Really... You shouldn't be drinking any soda (diet or otherwise). I very rarely will have a diet coke (less than once per week). Usually, I just drink water or milk.

Consuming carbohydrates isn't bad. The problem is consuming products with added sugars. Coke, for example, has 39 grams of sugar added per can. Can you imagine sitting down and eating 39 grams of sugar at one time? It's disgusting, but that's what you're consuming when you drink soda.

Anonymous said...

Mike, this is quite a ramble, so there's plenty of fodder to either agree, disagree, or go out on a tangent.

..I'm fat, fat as fat, as fat can be. I'm working on losing weight, slowly as slowly as slow can be. What I've figured out, since at one time I was very fit, fit as a fiddle-dee-dee, is that the crux of the matter is simply doing whatever it takes, to improve tissue 'oxygenation' not CO2, but 02, not CO3.

Seriously, getting up and about improves muscle tone, which allows major muscle groups to more efficiently provide oxygen to major oxygen-requiring organs.

When a person gets as fat as I am, and suddenly realizes they're no longer able to bike for 50 miles comfortably, or 'walk through the tall grass' x-country skiing, it's too late to avoid a lot of pain attempting to regain strength and condition (due to the citric acid cycle vs. Krebs). Similarly, one of the truly wonders of advancement in the orthopedic surgery world; get patients out of bed as soon as decently possible.

I cringe every time I hear of someone whose activities are restricted to bedrest, which is why SQ Lovenox has been a silent boon.

Pharmacy Mike said...

People getting to the point where they are obese is the problem.

I think the key is figuring out why people got that way, and then formulating a plan to stop that from happening.

Body types differ. Some people naturally carry around more fat than others. However, no one's natural body type is obese. For someone to become that fat, they either let themselves or were enabled by parents at a young age.

Furthermore, if you can walk, you can lose weight. It may take a long time, but it's possible.

Quite frankly, I feel sorry for people that aren't fit. I can't imagine going through life where I get winded walking 100 feet, or it drains all my energy to go up a flight of stairs. To me, that's the same as being handicapped.

Guzzo said...

Everytime when I hear the regular absentees call out of work sick again, all I can think is that maybe if they got off their asses and exercised every once in a while, they might be healthier (as in sick less frequently)

Everytime I hear regular absentees call out sick, I hardly ever think they're sick, but just using up their sick time (use it or lose it) or just don't feel like working that day.

"Metabolic Syndrome" - Ha! You called that one right. Sometimes I wonder if that's a termed coined by the pharma industry in order to come up with a new drug.

Mighty said...

Hey Mike, it's good to stumble on your site. My body type tends to get fat. My dad is actually quite obese and beginning 2009, I made a resolve to exercise regularly and eat more nutritious food. So far so good.

Will keep track of your future posts. :)



Anonymous said...

You are an interesting character. You distain the unhealthy yet you want to pay fot the healthcare to continue their lifestyles. I can't quite figure you out.

Pharmacy Mike said...

I want to pay for the health care for people who get cancer that had absolutely nothing to do with the lifestyle choices they made. I want to pay for people who get sick due to no wrong doing of their own. I want to pay for the people that simply can't afford a policy.

Do I want to pay for people who do nothing to take care of their own health? No. However, there's almost no way to weed out those people and still pay for the people who really need it. They're part of the package.

To me, reforming health care has to involve reforming our attitudes toward preventative care (i.e. eating right and exercising as to decrease your chances of getting sick in the first place).

Finally, I wouldn't say I "disdain" the unhealthy. I'm just pointing out another incidence where people don't take responsibility for their own lives. They want to eat whatever they want and do as little exercising as possible but still live to old age being happy and healthy. If they do develop some sort of condition, they want to be able to take a pill and make it go away. Basically, they want someone else to heal them, but the only way they can be healthier is for them to take control of their own lives and make healthier decisions.

I don't "disdain" unhealthy people at all. There are few people in this world I "disdain" (Paris Hilton is one of them, by the way). I don't treat them as lesser human beings. I just marvel at how when an overweight, completely inactive person can wonder why they get sick every couple of weeks.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to hear someone just one time say, "I've had this cold for 3 weeks, and I can't seem to shake it. Maybe if I lived a little healthier I wouldn't have so much trouble fighting off this illness."

Instead you hear, "I'm on my 3rd antibiotic, and none of them are working. My doctor doesn't know what he's doing."

That last part sounded familiar, didn't it?

was1 said...

"but the only way they can be healthier is for them to take control of their own lives and make healthier decisions."

wow, you're starting to sound like a libertarian. there may be hope for you afterall. but we need to follow things through to their conclusion and say that people must suffer the consequences (or reap the rewards) of their own choices. why should we all suffer because you smoke, are fat, are lazy, don't work, do drugs, or run with scissors?

but daddy, i want an oompa loompa NOW!

Anonymous said...

Clearly your immune system kicks butt. Lucky you. While being fit is always going to help your health, you may be patting yourself on the back a little too hard.
Lots of fit people who eat healthily still get sick. Lots of people who are generally unfit, don't.
Your collegues illhealth may be less connected to their level of fitness than you think... as your good health also may not be due solely to your health lifestyle.

Frantic Pharmacist said...

I totally agree. Being in a good state of nutrition with an appropriate body weight (I believe) makes people more resistant to common illnesses and helps them recover more quickly if they do get sick. The guzzling of empty-calorie, tooth-rotting soda is one of the major culprits. The calories and carbohydrates in a fruit drink or soda are the same as any other calories.
But, it takes work and willpower, and we aren't too good at that..