Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fit, Fabulous, and Obese?

In a word, yes.

When I look at the photo of my mother's family reunion I see mostly tall, mostly thin, and what most of people think of as fit and healthy looking people from ages two to 80. When you look at the photos of my father's family you're likely to see tall yet chubby folks of all ages. But it's not the size (or mass) that matters.
I'm thin so I must be healthy

Both sides can really pack it away when it comes down to it. The old world Eastern European appetite lives on in both, although my father's family seems to revel in eating a bit more than the maternal fam. It' just that one family seems to hold onto the fat much better than the other. Even when my sisters and I were (or are) training in sports or marching band daily, we never cut a svelte figure. Whereas, my mother seems to be perpetually slender, even in her mid-60's, and even back in the days when she didn't have a regular fitness regimen. My father was a chunky all-American center at a big Midwestern university, and I believe most of his brother's played football at least in high school. Fitness on my father's side leads to muscle with a healthy layer of fat, and even when I'm sedentary, my muscle mass is usually much greater than my more slender friends. Here's the deal: it's not safe to say that Dad's family lives a sedentary lifestyle and Mom's leads an active lifestyle. It's not not even safe to say one family is a family of overeaters. 

So, enough about my story and on to the research to back this up.

De Facts:    
The following data has been compiled in the book an Epidemic of Obesity Myths  

A remarkable finding is that heavy people who are fit have lower risk than thin people who are unfit." -Dr. Kelly Brownell, Director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, 2003

Fitness Vs. Fatness

"Consistently, physical inactivity was a better predictor of all-cause mortality than being overweight or obese." -Annals of Epidemiology, 2002

"There was a steep inverse gradient between fitness and mortality in this cohort of men with documented diabetes, and this association was independent of BMI … Obese men with fitness levels greater than the lowest quartile were at no increased risk for mortality when compared with men in the reference group."
-Diabetes Care, 2004

"[A] fit man carrying 50 pounds of body fat had a death rate less than one-half that of an unfit man with only 25 pounds of body fat."
-Harvard Health Policy Review, 2003

"We've studied this from many perspectives in women and in men and we get the same answer: It's not the obesity—it's the fitness."
-Steven Blair, P.E.D., Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, 2004

"In Greek schoolchildren, primary CHD [coronary heart disease] risk factors are mainly associated with physical activity levels, independently of fitness, fatness, and/or fat intake… It is noteworthy that the present data contradict recent reports citing obesity as the single most important contributor in the pathogenesis of CHD during childhood … Confirming a previous report in Greek children, we found that the CHD risk factors studied were not substantially affected by qualitative aspects of diet."
Archives of Disease in Childhood, 2004

"Active obese individuals actually have lower morbidity and mortality than normal weight individuals who are sedentary … the health risks of obesity are largely controlled if a person is physically active and physically fit."
-The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 2000

"Compared with normal weight, overweight and obesity did not significantly increase all-cause mortality risk. Compared with low CRF [cardiorespiratory fitness], moderate and high CRF were associated significantly with lower mortality risk."
-Obesity Research, 2002

"Obese individuals with at least moderate CRF [cardiorespiratory fitness] have lower rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or all-cause mortality than their normal-weight but unfit peers. In fact, death rates in the former group are about one half those of the latter."
-Editorial, JAMA, 2004

"Unfit, lean men had twice the risk of all-cause mortality as did fit, lean men and also had higher risk of all-cause mortality when compared with fit, obese men. The all-cause mortality rate of fit, obese men was not significantly different from that of fit, lean men … In summary, we found that obesity did not appear to increase mortality risk in fit men. For long-term health benefits we should focus on improving fitness by increasing physical activity rather than relying only on diet for weight control."
-American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999

"The report from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study presents convincing evidence that fitness is a more potent risk factor for mortality than is fatness … an effect of fitness that was statistically independent of the level of fatness was confirmed. The effect of fatness independent of fitness was less clear."
-American Journal of Epidemiology, 2002

"If the height/weight charts say you are 5 pounds too heavy, or even 50 pounds or more too heavy, it is of little or no consequence healthwise-as long as you are physically fit. On the other hand, if you are a couch potato, being thin provides absolutely no assurance of good health, and does nothing to increase your chances of living a long life."
-Steven Blair, P.E.D., Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, 1997

"This prospective follow-up study among middle-aged and elderly men and women indicates that obesity (as assessed by increased BMI) is not related to an increased risk of all-cause and CVD mortality, but low-level LTPA [leisure time physical activity] and a low level of perceived physical fitness and functional capability are … In conclusion, in contrast with our initial hypothesis, obesity was not found to be an independent predictor of mortality among middle-aged and elderly men and women. However, low-level LTPA seemed to predict and a low level of perceived physical fitness and functional capability predicted an increased risk of all-cause and CVD mortality among both men and women."
-International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders, 2000

"An interesting finding of this study is that overweight, but fit men were at low risk of all-cause mortality."
-International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders, 1998

"Most studies of BMI and other measures of obesity have not adequately accounted for physical fitness, a known modifier of weight status and a potential mediator of the effects of obesity on CAD [Coronary Artery Disease] and adverse CV outcomes … Our data support previous studies showing that functional capacity appears to be more important than BMI for all-cause and CV mortality, especially in women."
-JAMA, 2004

And here is some research published in 2003 from an academic journals Nature and Obesityon obesity and fitness in Flemish (Belgium/Netherlands) youth:

"Results of this study show that obese subjects had poorer performances on weight-bearing tasks, but did not have lower scores on all fitness components. To encourage adherence to physical activity in obese youth, it is important that activities are tailored to their capabilities. Results suggest that weight-bearing activities should be limited at the start of an intervention with obese participants and alternative activities that rely more on static strength used."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Integral Options Cafe: Healthy Parks=Healthy People? - Featuring Richard Louv (Author of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder"

From the Integral Options Cafe: A series of videos by experts on why and how having a relationship with the natural world is important. Integral Options Cafe: Healthy Parks=Healthy People? - Featuring Richard Louv (Author of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder" "You can listen to a good one-on-one conversation with Richard Louv at All in the Mind. The three experts in these videos, along with moderator Natasha Mitchell, make a good argument (not that I need convincing) that nature spaces are crucial for human health and well-being.

In this Melbourne Conversations event, Healthy Parks=Healthy People?, three world authorities discuss the benefits of contact with nature for human health and well-being.

Acclaimed author Richard Louv has identified a phenomenon: nature-deficit disorder. His book Last Child in the Woods galvanized an international movement around the disconnection between children and nature;


Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist changed my life.  And I thank my friend Bek for introducing it to me during my senior year of college.  After re-reading excerpts during the dog days of Swing Semester, it brought me to big alligator tears.  The path I had followed since college was the path of my heart, and while there had been many detours, just like the book's hero, it was incredibly affirming to know the lessons had got into the marrow of my bones.

  • “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

  •  “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

  • “Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life.”


  • “When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision."


  • “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”


  • “Every search begins with beginner's luck and ends with the victor being severely tested.”


  • “When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”


  • “The boy and his heart had become friends, and neither was capable now of betraying the other.”


  • “When you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the Soul of the World. It’s always a positive force.”


  • “Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World."


  • “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.”


  • “I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now."


  • “When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there’s no need at all to understand what’s happening, because everything happens within you.”


  • “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.  And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity."

  • "When you are in love, things make even more sense, he thought."

  • "Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. You’ve got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense."


  • “All you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation. Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it came from the Soul of the World, and it will one day return there.”


  • “The alchemists spent years in their laboratories, observing the fire that purified the metals. They spent so much time close to the fire that gradually they gave up the vanities of the world. They discovered that the purification of the metals had led to a purification of themselves.”

  • “I learned that the world has a soul, and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things. I learned that many alchemists realized their destinies, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Elixir of Life. But above all, I learned that these things are all so simple they could be written on the surface of an emerald.” 

  • “In his pursuit of the dream, he was being constantly subjected to tests of his persistence and courage. So he could not be hasty, nor impatient. If he pushed forward impulsively, he would fail to see the signs and omens left by God along his path.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Space Station Astronaut captures Space Storm Aurora

The International Space Station flies through Earth's aurora in this photo taken by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi and posted on April 5, 2010. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft is visible docked to the station. Full story. Credit: Astro_Soichi

Strategic Beethoven Tactics, from the NYT

Playing Musical Chairs to Capture Beethoven’s Spirit

The ostensible lure of the four-concert series the conductor Ivan Fischer presented with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Budapest Festival Orchestra at Lincoln Center was the chance to hear all nine Beethoven symphonies performed in close proximity by two exemplary ensembles representing different traditions: the period-instrument band and the modern orchestra.

Daniel Barry for The New York Times
Budapest Festival Orchestra: Ivan Fischer conducting the ensemble, accompanied by the Dessoff Symphonic Choir, at Avery Fisher Hall on Sunday.
Not a bad hook, as marketing ploys go. But the most valuable revelation of this series was what a dynamic, idiosyncratic Beethoven conductor Mr. Fischer is. After three concerts in Alice Tully Hall, he ended his sequence on Sunday afternoon at Avery Fisher Hall, leading the Budapest ensemble in the Sixth and Ninth Symphonies.
For the Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”), Mr. Fischer radically broke with conventional orchestral seating. The principal flutist, oboist and clarinetist were placed front and center, with other winds mingled throughout the ensemble: a second flutist back near the basses, a second oboist between the violas and second violins, a piccolo player with the trombones on a rear platform.
If the unusual setup was meant to bolster clarity and balance, it succeeded. Mr. Fischer’s tempos and dynamics tended toward extremes, punctuated with resounding silences, but always yielded results that sounded fresh, inspired and wholly in the spirit of Beethoven’s evocative writing.
The layout for the Ninth Symphony was even more peculiar. The woodwinds migrated to a standard grouping near the back, replaced in the front row by Roland Denes, the timpanist, who admittedly played an especially prominent role. Only at one point near the end of the first movement did his animated rumble obscure details elsewhere in the ensemble.
In the fourth movement the four vocal soloists — Lisa Milne, soprano; Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano; Jorma Silvasti, tenor; and Kristinn Sigmundsson, bass — sang from individual platforms positioned among the string players. The Dessoff Symphonic Choir was positioned on the floor in front of the stage, responding to Mr. Fischer’s direction via video monitors in the house. That wandering piccolo player now turned up amid the percussionists.
Once again, Mr. Fischer’s quirky tactic worked. The soloists sounded robust and vibrant from their elevated stations, Ms. Milne and Mr. Sigmundsson particularly. The choir’s projection and enunciation were unusually clear. And the piccolo’s merry tooting effortlessly cut through the clang of small, hard cymbals in the finale’s jaunty march. However unorthodox Mr. Fischer’s techniques, Beethoven’s spirit rang out with an explosive jubilance.mend