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Obesity and Cycling...(long)(27 posts)

Obesity and Cycling...(long)JBurton
Jun 11, 2002 4:51 PM
I have noticed recently the growing number of television commercials and magazine and newspaper ads which use cycling of some sort to advertize their product. In general, it seems that mainstream advertizing is using cycling more and more to promote their clients products. The most recent one I have seen is an Advil commercial. There are others that are more geared toward sports, Powerade and Gatorade for instance, which feature cyclists along with more popular sports, baseball, football and basketball, not to mention the "extreme" commercials of Mountain Dew and Surge, featuring Mountain Bikers. These are not just shown on OLN, but ESPN, Discovery, Food, DIY, and network TV as well. Vehicle manufactures promoting an active car for an active lifestyle more often than not feature a cyclist of some sort.

It seems that cycling is becoming more popular and accepted, though we still see some backlash from drivers and other folk like we discuss here all the time. Nevertheless, there seem to be, to my knowledge, more cyclist than even just a few years ago. I don't remember the Lemond era with regards to cycling, nor do I remember the cycling boom of the seventies, mostly because I just wasn't involved in cycling enough to notice. But it seems to me that it might be argued that cycling is more popular now than ever before. In a time when my 54 year old mother and 45 year old step father can quit smoking after 40 years and begin competing in triathlons, I would say that yes, things are changing for cycling and endurance sports.

Overall, an adventurous, healthy lifestyle seems to be more in vogue. This may account for the rise in the popularity of cycling. There are more rock climbing gyms, for instance, than there ever were before, and the idea of rock climbing is not quite as outsider as it once was. Quite a large number of people that I run into have tried this sport, if only in a gym. Outdoor companies like REI and Galyons are doing better all the time.

Having said all that, I have been extremely interested in the treatment of the problem of obesity in America for my entire live, mostly because I have a close family member who is morbidly obese (albiet from a genetic disorder called Prader-Willis). The powers that be all agree that the activity level of the average human has declined by as much as 30% since the sixties. The number of people who are considered obese for their body type in the US has jumped to around 40%. That is almost half of the population!

Topic of discussion: Does it not seem to others like a huge paradox, the health consciousness of our time and the rise of new aerobically challenging sports, and the decline in the activity level of the average American? Can the ease of our daily lives because of advancements in technology make that much difference in our activity level? Can cyclists as a group help do something to get more people out there doing something and moving, even if it is a six mi/hr ride in the park or a walk down the block? What could we do to help? Anything?
So your step father started smoking at five?elviento
Jun 11, 2002 5:19 PM
"In a time when my 54 year old mother and 45 year old step father can quit smoking after 40 years and begin competing in triathlons, I would say that yes, things are changing for cycling and endurance sports."

I have been doing proofreading all night, so I can't help doing that for a cheap chuckle.

OK, back to your topic: despite the rise of cycling and other sports, how many Americans are actually engaged in regular active exercising? Probably no more than 25%.

Given the abundance in fat-laden foods like McD, KFC, or the all time favorate food of America, pizza, and the less physical nature of most people's jobs, it takes great self restraint and genetic marvel for the remaining 75% not to become fat. Incidentally, most of those who don't exercise are also those who don't avoid fatty foods.

I have lost quite a bit of weight due to cycling. It just feels great to be fit and healthy! As cyclists, we can try to influence those around us. If we can all manage to affect a few people, that would have a very good effect on the overall health of the people. Or maybe appear in a Subway commercial?;-)

Happy riding.
Actually, I wasn't referring to him, but he probably did!JBurton
Jun 11, 2002 5:27 PM
Yeah, I thought about the Fast food, also. But again, the health experts say that it isn't so much the food as it is the level of severe inactivity. It really struck me as strange, the decline since the sixties that is.

Back to the mom and step-pop, they are amoung a fairly large group of friends that live in a small town in South Georgia. Triathlon is something I though they would NEVER even think about, especially given the southern fried food and barbeque, bass fishing, beer drinking mentality most of these guys and girls had before. My family also started rock climbing, and I mean hard core Trad climbing almost every weekend. Now if this adventure/health mentality can reach this lower-middle class family, surely it can reach others.
you guys keep nailing junk foodcyclopathic
Jun 11, 2002 8:35 PM
but it ain't the problem, sugar is. Low fat/high sugar diet combined with lack of exerscise.
minor rantgrandemamou
Jun 11, 2002 5:45 PM
We had a family reunion over the weekend. Everyone kept telling me and my whole family that we were too skinny. After hearing it for the third or fourth time I had to bite my tongue not to say "No we are not too skinny, you guys are all fat."

I was shocked at the large number of overweight kids there. My kids are active and play sports year round and tend to hang out with the same types of kids so I have never really noticed the large number of overweight kids out there.

Whats really sad is that we have to fight tooth and nail to get enough kids to field a fair amount of sports teams. The best advice is to start at home.
I agree-rideslikeagirl
Jun 12, 2002 9:15 AM
It breaks my heart to see these six and seven year olds that have double chins and waddle rather than walk.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. And it keeps getting tougher with all the video games and internet interest.

Not to mention, the ever-popular-babysitter...the boob tube.

These kids are going to have a very tough life if they don't get a healthy mentor.
Jun 11, 2002 5:54 PM
I spend quite a bit of time in Europe with family, and I am bombarded with odd contrasts to life in the US. In the US, exercise exists outside our normal daily routine- we rarely exercise to get to work- or at work.

I hate to say it- I love my car, but we need better public transportation and to tax the hell out of gasoline! People at least need to walk to and from bus stations/train stations.

Seriously, I've never met a European who cares what he/she eats, or that belongs to a "health club"- or that was morbidly obese. Not saying there aren't exceptions to this- but it isn't "normal" like it is here. Of course a little flouride in the water supply in some places might not hurt, but I'm drifting off-topic.

It is amazing how many people commute on old bikes in Europe, vs. the anarchists and DWI crowd in the US (I'm being a bit facetious for those who might be humor impaired).

I still think we use the active lifestyle as a marketing tool... I don't think it reflects reality any more than a commercial for an SUV showing it trampling off-road somewhere... how many suburbanites actually venture off-road?
Your last paragraph says a lot! nmGregJ
Jun 11, 2002 7:32 PM
re: Obesity and Cycling...(long)jjdbike
Jun 11, 2002 5:57 PM
Wow JBurton
I am in complete agreement w/you. I am a long time spinning instructor, cyclist & kinesiology (specificaly the science & study of movement, generally exersise science, health & physical education {HPE)etc..) student. I read the surgen general's reports, the recomendations of the American Collage of Sports medicine & the President's Counsel etc...I also study the astronomical increases in hypokinetic (lack of movement) disease. Being fit, adventurous, & athletic has never been so "in vogue".
BUT, in our public & private schools, even at the University level,HPE teachers are being layed off, laypeople, or other teachers w/ little to know knowledge of HPE are "teaching" it, or HPE is being completely eliminated.
Perhaps its due to our focus on our cariers, or maby we set unrealistic goals for ourselves & when we don't achive them quickly we give up.
All I know is, the benifits of being fit & active are innumeralble. The biggest of these benifits is how it makes you feel. The stress relief, the endorphine release, & the energy gained, make it so worth it, never mind that it helps you look better, live longer & better.
To directly answer your question (what can we do). Instead of being exclusive, elitist, "athletes" in a "private club", I think WE should be evangelists & embasidors of fitness, especialy to those whom we love. Invite an unfit individual on a recovery or LSD ride. Lend them a bike. Teach, coach, & encourage them.
WE can help.
It won't be easy...........,STEELYeyed
Jun 11, 2002 6:54 PM
when I tell people the miles I put in,or my tt times,they think that I am a nut. They have all manner of excuses why they can't do it,they have bad knees,a bad back,or they can't wear "those clothes",or my favorite "It hurts my butt". I work with a 35 year old woman that is 5'4" and well over 300 lbs.,she brings a grocery bag of sugary snacks to work everyday,and orders takeout for lunch,I feel bad for her and what she is doing to her health but can't bring myself to say anything to her,she's diabetic and headed for big trouble. It seems people get so stuck in a lifestyle that they will sacrifice their life to avoid any change.
The Gov't is keeping us fat...spyderman
Jun 12, 2002 1:30 AM
The food pyramid is wrong! It's too rich in carbs, and starches which causes a build up insulin in our blood and inhibits the burning of fat.

Protein is the fuel!!!
are you sayingnova
Jun 12, 2002 3:01 AM
A couple of rare steaks and a side of bacon before a century ride is the way to go?
Food Pyramid???biknben
Jun 12, 2002 4:25 AM
The last time I saw a food pyramid I was in the 8th grade. If our diet is too rich in carbs and starches I don't think it has anything to do with the food pyramid.

I bet that the majority of the population doesn't even know the five food groups.
Aren't the 5 food groupsJL
Jun 12, 2002 5:50 AM
Pizza, Fried Food, Ben & Jerry's, Junk Food and Alcoholic Beverages?

Not that theirs anything wrong with that. :)
my somewhat cynical taketheBreeze
Jun 11, 2002 6:29 PM
I work in the health and fitness industry too and I see and hear things everyday that make almost make me want to throw in the towel. I watch yahoos fight over a closer parking space so they can come inside and run on a treadmill. Everytime I tell someone the realities of getting in shape or loosing weight (that they need to move more, eat less, and yes it is hard sometimes) they act like I've told them to do something impossible. "I don't have the time, Isn't there an easier way?" whine whine whine whine whine!!!!! I have to fight the lying messages of TV infomercials everyday.

Where did all this "I can't" and negativity come from? I tell a co-worker about the century i did last weekend, and she says "Oh I could never do that!" Bull----.

Starting post-WWII there was this big push to "make life easier", "you won't have to work as hard as your granpa did on the farm." All these labor-saving devices are literally killing us.

If someone comes to me and honestly wants to make changes in their life-style, I am more than willing to help them. But i have reached the conclusion that no matter how much we are role models for a healthy life style, if they don't want to, they ain't gonna. And that's fine...more Social Security left for me. (Not that I'm actually relying on it.)
Anyone see the deoderant commercial?nova
Jun 11, 2002 7:17 PM
A couple of guys (rap stars?) in a convertible talk to the camera about how great the deoderant works. Then they compare the deoderant to a large rubber band, and they compare body oder to a peleton of cyclists.

They stretch the rubber band across the road, the cyclists ride directly into it, and the cyclists get thrown into the muck of a pig pen.

Not exactly a positive image for cycling.

As for sedentary lifestyles: Adult-onset diabetes is now showing up in children in the US. It is the result of inactivity and horrendous eating habits. Looks like the medical community will need to rename the disease.

Yep, people act like using their bodies for transportation is something out of the dark ages...
Re: Anyone see the deoderant commercial?sgc
Jun 12, 2002 5:35 AM
I am just amazed at how fast the cyclists are running after Mr. Man and Mr. Man in their cycling shoes! :)
What brand?!?!? nmrideslikeagirl
Jun 12, 2002 9:27 AM
Not sureTypeOne
Jun 12, 2002 11:53 AM
I saw part of the ad, too, but didn't pay attention to the product shot. Not that my personal boycott of this product would make any difference to the company's bottom line, but I would do it on principle.
I don't know how this made cyclists look bad. I was actually pleased that these two guys were shown running away from the mad pack of cyclists (in their cycling shoes, as mentioned above!)
It wasn't as bad as a car ad a few years ago that showed some driver in his shiny new car frustrated while stuck behind a pack of slow-moving cyclists. Oh yeah, we should all stay off the road so drivers can rev it up to 70 mph on country roads.
something Extreme (?)nova
Jun 12, 2002 1:20 PM
The tube is sort of an aqua green, and the name has "Extreme" in it.

I thought it was cool at first; seeing cyclists in a mainstream advertising campaign - then I saw it a couple more times (too much tv!), and began to think that if it portrayed an act of slapstick violence against another group (pick one; nascar, golf, football, etc.) it would never be on the air.

Remember the Lexus commercial a couple years back with the car waiting for a peleton to pass before turning onto the road? (then all the cyclists see the car, come to a screaching halt, and fall over sideways). That was a good one.
Jun 12, 2002 3:32 AM
I agree that the advertisements and such are all just marketing and don't really reflect real life. They only use mountain biking and cycling as a marketing tool because things like the X-games and the Tour(thanks to Lance) are popular for viewing.
As for the obesity thing, I think alot of people just don't care. I used to be pretty heavy(now I'm just heavy, but I'm working on it) and I didn't really care about it. I got to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, and as far as I could tell it wasn't holding me back in any way other than being a little winded going up stairs. Obviously, it hurt me in the social area, but we can always come up with excuses for that (she's a snob, she's not my type, she doesn't care about me for who I am). So think alot of the country just doesn't care about their weight because they don't see it holding them back in their daily life. What changed it around for me was falling in love with snowboarding. I was able to make excuses in the beginning, but as my skills improved there was no way I could deny what was holding me back. So, I searched for a summer sport to help me lose weight. But, I wanted something I could really enjoy, not just do to lose weight. I had tried the gym thing, but I just don't enjoy it and started making excuses for not going. Then a co-worked talked me into mountain biking. So last season, I bought a mountain bike and fell in love with it. Soon, the pounds started disappearing. This season I took it to the next level and bought a road bike to commute to work on (35miles round trip), something I never thought I'd be able to do. Anyway, I think the trick is to get them into a sport or something active that they truly enjoy, and don't do it just to get in shape. Everyone here road bikes and mountain bikes because they love to bike, not just for the obvious physical benefits. The trick is finding the sport or activity that sparks their interest and seeing where it takes them. If they do something just for the sake of getting in shape, I guarantee they'll stop doing it. If they do something that they love, it's with them for life.
yes, people must like what they are doing, and...nova
Jun 12, 2002 1:23 PM
congrats on your progress!
Get rid of all automobiles, make people sweat... nmlongfellow68
Jun 12, 2002 3:41 AM
Most don't realize the benefits of staying fit...biknben
Jun 12, 2002 4:47 AM
I've got plenty of obesity in my immediate family. They all started life fit and thin. As they grew older, they gained weight. At this point, my mother has trouble with stairs at 50. My father is just slowing down. After living an active lifestyle including softball, golf, bowling, etc. he has just stopped doing it as often. My mother has lived overweight for 30 years and my father is following right behind her. They both recognize the problem and choose to ignore it. They are both on medications to alleviate symptoms of obesity which include high blood pressure, blood sugar imbalance, joint pain, etc. For some reason they don't seem to care that they are decreasing the length and quality of their lives.

How can help people like this. You can try to offer quidance but in the end it is their choice. If 40% of the population is overweight it is their fault (excluding those with medical conditions). No one else needs to be held accountable.

For those that think this sounds a little harsh let me explain that I lost 55 lbs and have continued to keep it off for 2 years. I was following in my fathers footsteps. At some point, I decided it wasn't the best path.
It is aerobically challenging for those that ride hard.bnlkid
Jun 12, 2002 7:09 AM
Many of the obese people on bicycles do less work, than if they went for a long walk. I see the same type of activity at the gym. Some obese person will get on the treadmill and walk slower than they would outside, or sit on a stationary bike and pedal at about 20 rpms. I like to encourage these people because they are making an attempt to do something about their weight, however they are given misleading information from advertising. Riding a bike at 10 miles an hour can be very aerobic providing you are pedaling/working consistently to maintain that. Coasting on a bike doesn't do much more than working muscles to stay balanced.

Also, don't read into those numbers too much. While they are alarming, they are also misleading. I am considered overweight by those standards, but consider myself healthy and fit.(I could lose 20 lbs, but not 30 that is suggested as being the high end of my body type).

There have been several things that have contributed to Americans becoming overweight. Families that have to have both parents work to make ends meet, pick up dinner on the way home. More processed fast foods, less home cooked meals. Automation has also lead to workers being less activite at work and home. Remote control, computers, video games, etc. are contributing to less active households. It doesn't sound like much in the short run, but multiply it over 10-20 years and that is a lot less activity.
I will never tire of hearing people discuss this...JBurton
Jun 12, 2002 9:22 AM
I work so, so hard not to be cynical about obesity. I consider myself a very non-prejudiced person and very accepting of people's shortcomings. However, having lived with a morbidly obese person until I went off to college, I was very jaded...still am sometimes. Since my brother's obesity can be blamed on his chromosomal condition, which imparts its victims with a crawling metabolism, his weight loss is not a matter of controling laziness or gluttony, but a real medical issue requiring severe caloric intake control. In addition to the metabolic rate, his condition also affects his mental maturity requiring constant supervision. I finally made peace with that and stopped blaming him. However, this realization caused me to look at other obese people with quite a bit more disdain. I want to clarify...20-30 lbs overweight I could understand and (pardon the gall) "forgive"....100-300 lbs overweight is what I had an almost moral problem with. Seeing my brother's legitimate problem in contrast to these other individuals' seeming laziness and refusal to control their eating habits made me literally come to hate fat people.

I am "naturally" very lean. I have remained an active person my entire life, but I have a feeling that even if I was inactive, I would be small, at least until my metabolism starts to catch up with me as I get older. The impetus of my first post was a Discovery Channel program about obesity. The facts and figures I had seen before, but this program also interviewed people who called themselves "Fat and Proud." Some of these people refused to believe that their obesity would risk their health. They saw it as a conspiracy in the medical community to spread rumors that obesity can cause increased risk of heart disease, adult onset diabetes, cancer, and respiratory problems.

I found myself feeling more sorry for these people than hating them. I feel the need to affect their lives for the better. Stop fighting them (mentally), and start looking for ways to help get them moving. More importantly, looking for ways to get kids moving early so that they learn not to be sedentary...something that I fear is also increasing in our society. I realize that seeing a skinny little cyclist inviting an obese person might intimidate them into not wanting to try a introductory spin class, for instance. I know that for a person as large as my younger brother, the 110 pound aerobics instructor at the gym might make the task at hand seem insurmountable.

I would like to continue this real discussion with others who are interested in fighting the problem of obesity, but not fighting the people, as I have done in the past. Finding the patience to encourage someone who seems far beyond lost...finding the strenghth of mind to realize that it is harder than I once thought to just be thin. I still am guilty of looking on obese people with distain, much the same way I look at smokers with disdain. I try, but I don't always have such a clear view.

For those of you interested in getting information about the Prader-Willis syndrome, there is a website that offers the best overall introduction to the disorder.

I realize that it is not exactly a cycling subject, but it is an interesting health topic. Thanks for all the input thus far.
Jun 12, 2002 12:03 PM
Good post, JB.

I agree that encouraging obese people to get out and exercise is good. I see thin people in the gym snickering at the flabby person huffing on the stairstepper, and I don't like that. Even if that person never sees or hears these "fitness snobs," they are going to feel intimidated, angry, and unwilling to continue when surrounded by these people.
I know we all see big recreational cyclists on weekends, and I try to say hello and pass them politely. No sense discouraging anyone.
However, I am not as friendly when I see those people waddling out of Burger King. I admit I am not consistently tolerant.