It just so happens that last night I read the chapter on "Health and the Bicycle" in Jeff Mape's Pedaling Revolution. Mapes reminds us that in 1991, only four states had obesity rates higher than 15%, while in 2007 only one state -- Colorado -- had a rate under 20%. In 1996, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report lamenting that our modern, car dependent society hinders any attempts to increase physical activity. Psychologists studying the issue learned that the only way to increase physical activity is to make it a part of an active lifestyle.
That's when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is dedicated to improving public health, got into promoting bicycling in a big way, spending $80 million in the 90s on advocacy, research and grants to promote active transportation. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, for example, provided the early funding for the League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Community Program.
Mapes mentions Prescription for a Healthy Nation by physicians Tom Farley and Deborah Cohen, who argue that American's fixation with the cost of our health care system obscures the real problem: that 'health care' rarely does little to provide real health. 40% of early deaths can be attributed to controllable factors such as smoking, alcohol use, diet, physical activity and vehicle crashes.
Cohen and Farley argue that we should stigmatize sedentary behavior in the same way anti-smoking campaigners stigmatized smoking in the 80s. "We have to put walking and cycling back into our daily lives and temper our addiction to cars," they write. They argue for development that encourages active transportation over car use.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, you should wash your hands. Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
By Yokota Fritz
One of the more interesting teams competing at the Tour de Georgia this week is Team Type 1. When the Tour de Georgia teams were announced I gave team founder Joe Eldridge a call for an interview.
Diabetic pro athletes
Team Type 1 was created in 2004 by Type 1 diabetes racers Phil Southerland and Joe Eldridge to inspire people living with diabetes to take a proactive approach to managing their health and overcoming the obstacles often associated with the condition. In 2006 and 2007, the team won the eight-rider corporate team division of the Race Across America. Of the 15 members on the Team Type 1professional squad, four have Type 1 Diabetes, including Tour de Georgia racer Fabio Calabria of Australia. As of the end of Stage 3 in the Tour de Georgia, Calabria is in fifth place in the "Best Young Rider" classification, less than a second behind Best Younger Rider Tyler Farrar.
Goals crucial for athletic competition and health
"Our goal is to inspire people with diabetes around the world to take control of their health through diet, exercise and proper health care," says team co-founder Phil Southerland. "As a professional team, racing against the world's best cyclists, we'll be able to deliver that message to a much wider audience."
"Setting goals are critical to athletic success," says Joe. "For a diabetic to be successful at achieving an athletic goal has to remember they have to set a diabetes goal as well. The key to is blood sugar management. The only way to perform at 100% is to be prepared physically this includes having your blood sugar where it needs to be not just for the event but during training, resting, and daily activities. The steps that you take to manage your diabetes will help you achieve your athletic goals."
Team Type 1 made their professional racing debut last February as the only U.S. team in the Tour of Langkawi stage race in Malaysia, where the team finished 2nd overall. They also recently completed the Tour of Taiwan, where Team Type 1 cyclist Shawn Milne won a stage victory for his team and placed 2nd overall.
Team Type 1 founder Southerland is especially unusual because he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 7 months. Both Southerland and Eldridge were encouraged to be athletic through high school and college. They met at a collegiate bike race as competitors -- besides a love for competitive cycling they discovered they had Type 1 Diabetes in common. They decided to participate in the Race Across America together, and in their second year of RAAM in 2007 took first place by more than 3 hours.
Challenges of diabetic athletes
Type 1 Diabetes is a disorder where the body does not produce enough insulin. To manage blood sugar, diabetics must test their blood sugar a few times per day. Team Type 1 diabetics check their blood sugar up to 20 times per day on a race day, pricking their fingers for a blood sample 4 or 5 times just in the hour before the race. During the race itself there is no opportunity to check blood sugar, but from training rides the athletes have a sense of low blood sugar and know to consume a little more sugar. In a non-diabetic athlete, the athlete who consumes too much carbohydrate, the body is able to store the sugar in the liver. But in diabetic athletes, the hormones to do that conversion aren't there, so the kidneys work to remove the extra sugar from the blood. Diabetic athletes have the challenge of extra bathroom breaks because of the extra urine produced when they consume that Clif Bar.
Joe tells me that the main challenge for the diabetic athlete is to keep his blood sugar under control. As long as he carefully monitors his blood sugar and his diet, he can compete at the level of other world class athletes. His endocrinologist supports his endeavors.
Bound for the Tour de France
Eldridge and Southerland have shown their sponsors and fans that "we're here to race and we're here to win." Their goal is to race in the ProTour and win an invitation to the Tour de France in five years. "To the best of our knowledge, no type 1 diabetic has ever competed as a professional cyclist in Europe," says Eldridge. "We intend to be the first diabetic ProTour cyclists."
My tip at the end of the podcast was "Don't ride outside in the smoke." A few people in my blogroll (such as Masi Guy, Biking Bis, Cycling Dude, End Pavement) have been impacted by the fire, ash and smoke down in Southern California. I think most people are smart enough to avoid anything too aerobic when the air is full of carbonized manzanita.
Five years ago, I wasn't one of the smart ones. I was living in Boulder County while wildfires raged in Rocky Mountains and in the foothills, but where I lived in eastern Boulder County the air quality seemed fine. A small group of us went on our regular lunch ride in spite of the haziness. I coughed up black stuff for at least a week after that.
It turns out that microscopic particles cause inflammation within my lungs that can cause scarring of the surfaces where oxygen and CO2 are exchanged. Not only that, they can become permanently lodged within the tiny air sacs of my lungs. The result for me as a cyclist: Permanently reduced VO2Max. I haven't had my VO2Max measured in a couple of decades, but in the years since that fire ride I've noticed markedly reduced lung capacity. I can feel the strength in my legs, but I just can't deliver the oxygen to keep them going like I used to.
I mentioned Kiril the Cycling Dude's post on cycling in smoke, where he provides links to the American Lung Association and Centers for Disease Control. Kiril makes note that many SoCal residents have no choice -- if they need to get to work or school or shopping, biking is often their primary means of transportation.
Some of you might be shocked to know that back in the day, it wasn't at all unusual for cyclists to start sucking on a cigarette after a hard race. When I got into cycling in the 80s it was still done, and it always jarred me a little when I saw it. It's conceivable that cyclists perform so much better today not because of doping, but because they're not all taking a drag on cancer sticks.
Listen to the The Spokesman. I have no idea how Tim Jackson sounds so perky at 6 in the a.m. when we recorded this episode.
By Yokota Fritz
I really like the vibration absorbing properties of my old steel bikes as well as my Specialized Roubaix. The Roubaix features Specialized's "Zertz" inserts, which supposedly enhances the vibration damping qualities of my carbon fiber frame.
Zertz, apparently, is also making me fat. According to recent research, sitting on a vibrating platform can build bone mass and reduce fat. The vibrations apparently trigger stem cells into becoming bone instead of fat. The same principle is probably in action when you sit in a reclining chair, which tend to be very well padded to minimize vibrations.
To lose weight, then, you need more vibrations. Them hipster kids on the harsh-riding track bikes are so skinny, so maybe it's time for me to trade in my comfy Roubaix for something like the ultra stiff Scott CR1. Maybe Fatty needs to ride bumpy singletrack on a fully rigid mountain bike.
Here's an interesting study [PDF] from Washington University in St. Louis in which economist Charles Courtemanche demonstrates a causal relationship between the price of gasoline and obesity rates in the United States. According to this study, an additional $1 in real gasoline prices would reduce obesity in the U.S. by 15% after five years, and that 13% of the rise in obesity between 1979 and 2004 can be attributed to falling real gas prices during this period. Courtemanche provides evidence that increased gas prices will result in more exercise for Americans as well as fewer restaurant visits. He writes:
If the price of gas rises, the cost of driving also rises, which may affect body weight in two ways. First, people may substitute from driving to walking, bicycling, or taking public transportation. Walking and bicycling are forms of exercise, which increase calories expended. If a person uses public transportation, such as subways, buses, trolleys, or rail services, the need to move to and from the public transit stops is likely to result in additional walking, again increasing calories expended. Second, since the opportunity cost of eating out at restaurants rises when the price of gas increases, people may substitute from eating out to preparing their own meals at home, which tend to be healthier. Income effects may also lead people to eat out less in an effort to save money to pay for the increased cost of gas.
Courtemanche notes that the reduced obesity rates can save 16,000 lives and $17 billion per year in health costs, partially offsetting the pain of paying higher gas prices.
By Yokota Fritz
There's a lot of talk this year about an increase of bicycle use among adults this year. This sad story in the Los Angeles Times, however, shows we have a long ways to go.
One sunny afternoon as our children played nearby, I asked a neighbor at what age she would allow her son to bicycle around the block by himself.
"I don't think I would ever do that," she replied. "The world is a very different place now than it was when we were growing up."
Did she really think the number of child molesters and kidnappers in the world had increased in the last 20 or 30 years, I asked? "Oh, yes, I think it is increasing. Because of the Internet."
At a PTA meeting, during a discussion of traffic problems around the school campus, I asked what we could do to encourage families to walk or bike to school. Other parents looked at me as if I'd suggested we stuff the children into barrels and roll them into the nearest active volcano. One teacher looked at me in shock. "I wouldn't let my children walk to school alone ... would you?"
"Haven't you heard about all of the predators in this area?" asked a father.
"No, I haven't," I said. "I think this is a pretty safe neighborhood."
"You'd be surprised," he replied, lowering his eyebrows. "You should read the Megan's Law website." He continued: "You know how to solve the traffic problem around this school? Get rid of all the predators. Then you won't have any more traffic."
By Yokota Fritz
The author of "Free Money Finance" writes about how a bicycle saved his life. His wife left him, his dog died and his pickup truck broke down in a really bad part of town while country music still played from the 8-track when some really bad desperados came looking for their next random victim. He reached back to the gun rack, but his ex- took the gun in the settlement! All he had was the old bike in the bed of the truck. He grabbed the bike and escaped with his life!
No, not really. He had horrible cholesterol due to bad eating habits. Three years ago he started cycling. Since then, his cholesterol has dropped from 237 to 169.
Bicycling is heart healthy, and the risks of cycling are far outweighed by the health benefits. I am compelled to warn readers, however, that cycling is not a "eat everything you want free" magic pill. Marathon runner Jim Fixx, with his infamous horrible eating habits, died of a heart attack. Last year I went through a time where I ate eggs, hashbrowns and a breakfast meat almost every morning. I stopped that after a blood test revealed that my cholesterol shot through the roof in spite of my daily bicycling. I still enjoy my eggs occasionally, but usually it's oatmeal in the morning for me.
Physical exercise will allow you to consume a few more calories, but you should still watch what you eat, especially as you approach and pass middle age.
By Yokota Fritz
Well, not exactly 'cured,' but it certainly seemed to decrease the frequency of migraine attacks. Bradley once suffered almost daily, debilitating migraine attacks. "Eventually it's just one big constant headache," he writes. "Migraine is more than just head pain though. Along with a sharp stabbing pain next to my eye, I get sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness, confusion, muscle spasms, fatigue, nausea. Sometimes I'll get minor aphasia, the inability to put together sentences."
There's a apparently a link between exercise and migraines, but Bradley tried joining a gym and "all I did was lose $50 a month." Some friends, though, suggested bicycling. "I love bicycling!" he writes. "In Jr. High I would cycle all over the place. Down to the beach, up and down the hills of downtown Long Beach, along The Strand with my mom. Yeah, I could do this!"
Bradley ended up getting a new bike and started riding it every day. Since then, he's been able to reduce his medications and go almost three weeks without an attack. Read more and follow his progress at his Faith From Pain blog.
$1400 per year in medical expenses for the obese
Stigmatized smokers consider their outsider status a point of pride.
$1400 a year? What do we cyclists spend on tires, chamois cream and sports drinks?
I know, I know. We're supposed to use statistics to our own advantage. I've just been out there for three decades getting crap thrown at me and suffering various forms of discrimination including in employment because of my decision in college to take up and insist on a healthy lifestyle.
Obesity is such an easy thing to remedy. Education on living a healthy lifestyle will help many people but is not implemented.
Whats the old idiom Kill two birds with one stone" I guess in the case of the bicycle it is "Kill Many birds with one stone" cycling can take care of obesity, gas prices, pollution, etc. etc.
Transportation cycling can be the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, but then you have places like Colorado trying to ban road cycling. You have all the other issues that discourage people from using bicycles as part of daily practical living.
Having friends and family members who battle weight I can tell you that it is not easy to overcome for some.
Humans are not only capable of phenomenal levels of activity, our built-in fuel gauge is designed to support them. From a meat-powered standpoint, pedal drive represents a major gain in cruising range compared to walking. This can be applied to 2-, 3-, and 4-wheeled vehicles.
Muscular output is only maintained through periods of activity and rest. External power sources can go longer without downtime, hence their obvious appeal to tired toilers.
Our technology allows us to find a balance between our exertion and the apparently tireless efforts of our machinery. We haven't come close to the right mix yet.
@cafiend: There's a bit of that 'outsider' rebel with cyclists too, especially the 'urban' fixie riders these days.
@BMI: it's easy to say that obesity is easily remedied, but the reality is 37% obesity in the United States right now and probably thousands of weight loss plans that don't work. It's kind of the whole point of Cohen & Farley's book, that our culture leads naturally to obesity, while a healthy lifestyle if discouraged.
@Russ: Right on.
...it's really about using information to completely change a cultures mindset & lifestyle for a better future..."status quo" can kinda suck...
...& i agree w/ you russ but the 'problems' are so integrated in every aspect of our day to day life that it goes way beyond "obesity"...we've been primed for years to over-indulge, be wasteful, unconcerned about our personal & our world's future...
...the various factors that work to divide us from an integrated symbiotic lifestyle need be addressed...
...& while things seem to be slowly changing simply because we're finally becoming aware of the expenditure of our natural resources, the evolution needs to get exponential before we're left w/ nothing decent to work w/...
...as regards the topic, i'm sure only a tiny percentage of presently obese folks will ever make significant changes in their lifestyle & yes, it does relate back to using what you have wisely...
...but factor in the psychological aspect of self esteem or lack thereof, familial acceptance amongst kin & peers & weigh it (whoops) against the medical initiative to change in favor of a healthy lifestyle & you've got a tough row to hoe...
...well, anyway, i'm not tryin' to write an analytical theorem here but it seems to me that all the factors need to be working together for it not to eventually all end in chaos, so i'm just sayin'...
How to avoid swine flu
Since my bicycle has not been to Mexico, I should be able to grasp its handlebars with impunity.
In other words: It's the flu! Avoid it like you would any other flu.
/so sick of the hysteria.
"swine flu" because that's what people are searching for!
I'm seeing reports that employers are telling their workers to avoid using mass transit to get to work -- ridiculous! See this.
Team Type 1
I has staying at the same hotel as Team Type 1 before the start of the 2006 RAAM. I talked to Phil a few times and some of the other guys on the RAAM team. They all seemed like really nice guys.
Thanks for posting this. I just read this to my kid who is type 1. He is a wrestler and soccer player and was pleased to know that type 1 folks continue to compete well beyond childhood.
Cycling in wildfire smoke
Fritz, You did a great job on the show. It is nice to be able to put a voice with the blog.
I sound perky?
I spent last week riding pretty hard actually, but riding along the coast and the San Diego Bay, I managed to ride in mostly-clean air.
I have asthma so I probably need to pay attention. When we had those fires a few years ago I did have some trouble breathing.
Saturday I did a 70 mile ride in western Colorado. There was a noticeable haze from the CA fires but my breathing seemed fine. Monday I rode at lunch here in Colorado Springs and I had trouble breathing. Maybe it was something else but we had a pretty good haze.
Fritz, I second James' comment. You sounded knowledgeable and confident on the show. Note to Dave ("The Fred"): Knowing that Fritz was on got me to subscribe to the podcast. Liked it a lot and look forward to the next one.
You guys are way too kind. I sound asleep and dull. Time for my nap, now!
Stiffer bikes for stronger bones and weight loss
So that's why I've gotten so fat. I got a Roubaix for RAAM last year. I'd been riding a steel road bike. I still ride a hardtail mountain bike though. I think the real problem is I haven't been riding any of my bikes enough.
Kinda need to read to the end of the article. Vibrations cause stem cells to become bone cells instead of fat cells; however, once u r fat --- "One important thing to note is that the vibrations do not remove fat cells. Rubin said that once fat cells form, they tend to stick around. And vibrating won't get rid of them.
"If you have a fat mouse, in order to get rid of the fat, you need to metabolize it, just as we've all learned," Rubin said. "You need to get those mice out running marathons or pumping iron, or whatever it is that mice do to reduce their fat mass."
Scientists are pretty clear that the techniques for reducing fat mass will work in humans, too."
Or riding bike at 80-90% heart rate.
So that's what my problem is! I gimped my wrist a few weeks ago and started riding my steel hybrid again, and this weekend I found that I'd slipped back into the Clydesdale Club (the name lovingly given to those of us who are above 200 pounds) after several months of losing weight while riding my aluminum Trek 1200.
Or, maybe I just need to ride more and eat less.
Anon, it makes it so much harder to blame something else if I'm actually better informed!
Noah, don't believe that ridiculous propoganda that you should ride more and eat less. You need to BUY NEW GEAR to lose weight! You too, Rob.
I need to ride my wife's mid-90's Specialized Sirrus then. That's as stiff and unyielding as any High School Nun I've ever had...
Not so fast. The study was done at 90Hz and 0.2g. The frequency is just about right for riding over 4" cobbles at 20mph, but you'll probably need a pretty squishy bike to keep the acceleration that low. Vibrate too hard and you're killing cartilage faster than you're building bone.
Art saves the day! We all need new squishy bikes that will maximize the benefit of bumpy riding while minimizing the damage.
Gasoline makes you fat
.... so what's making me fat, then?
I've been hearing a lot about this study lately, and honestly I have a hard time believing that it would really make that big of a difference. Lazy people will still find ways to be lazy.
We're lazy by nature. Laziness is inherent in us, and in fact laziness is a valuable survival trait for any animal. Super easy availability of cheap energy makes it *too* easy, unfortunately.
Fear keeping kids indoors, fat, and unhealthy
Fritz, We have the same "parental attitude" problem in our family's neighborhood. Parents now drive their children to school that live only two blocks away! The reason: Too Many Predators!
Even the children have falsely used this "story" to get attention. My boys continue to walk or ride the 1.1 mile to school but we need others to do the same. Only from more pedestrian use will neighborhoods be considered safe again and these childish fears extinguished.
Jack, this cycle of less use is indeed the paradox. If more kids (and parents!) were outdoors and on the streets insted of sequested in their isolation boxes, the neighborhoods would indeed be more safe. This is true not only from the standpoint of weirdos and whatnot, but for traffic also.
People are stupifyingly paranoid. The media has done an amazing job of making everyone afraid of doing anything. Ugghh...
This is a frightening attitude that is indeed all too prevalent. Kids need to learn proper safety rules and etiquette. They also need to be able to go exploring outdoors, but parents are too afraid to let them out of their sight.
Sad, Sad, Sad.
I let my 9 year old daughter ride around the block, down to the park down the street, to her cousins house about a mile away. She's gone for hours at a time but I think she's fine. I think the most likely thing that could go wrong is she'll fall and skin a knee or break a bone. But that's part of growing up.
I want her to ride her bike to school but the principal won't allow it. She says it's "unsafe to have kids walking and riding bikes around the buses". Hopefully we can get them to change that by the next Ride Your Bike To School day.
It's looking like I'm going to end up in Australia before my little (really little, unborn little) one has to go to school. I really hope that "the fear" isn't as prevelant there as it is here in North America.
We have a minimum security prison two blocks from our current home. Our member of parliment organized a press conference there and the local residents rallied to protest the place. I was the only one to say that if you want to live by laws you have to accept that there needs to be a place where people get locked up. Not in my backyard is not an arguement I accept. Their most common complaint was that it was placing their children in danger.
This disconnect between perception and reality is truly frightening. Far more frightening than the likelihood of some guy who was busted for selling pot escaping and then molesting a child rathe than running for the hills. That disconnect is how totalitarian regimes get and keep power, it's how atrocities are justified.
Bradley, great that your daughter is biking to school. My sons have been doing so since first grade. However, many children are poorly trained and last year one 9 year old ran into a public bus.
The problem? He was riding his new bike and didn't know how to use his hand brakes! He was in the hospital for awhile but is fine now.
Administrators are more concerned with liability than our childrens' development. The Ride Your Bike to School idea is completely OFF the charts.
By the way, in the St Louis area, two abducted children were found because one other student noticed the color and type of vehicle of the abductor. We need more kids on our streets and sidewalks!
I just don't know what to say about stories like this. My kids walk about 3 blocks to school. Their elementary school borders our neighborhood, so quite a few kids walk. Still, I am amazed that so many parents who live only blocks away drop their kids off. It takes longer to wait in the car line than to walk, but I guess driving is perceived as safer. For the record, I worry a lot more about all those cars than crazy people lurking in the bushes.
A bicycle saved my life!
I got diagnosed with a heart problem 2 months ago. Mitral valve prolapse with left ventricle hypertrophy to be exact. The way I understand it: the left valve doesn't close properly so the ventrical has to work harder causing its wall to thicken.
I can't say for certain that my bike saved my life but my father had a fatal heart attack when he was only a few years older than my current 40 and mitral valve prolapse is thought to be hereditary. He drank, smoked, ate very poorly and never exercised. As my mother said "He worked pretty hard at having that heart attack."
I suspect I'd be much worse off without the bike. as it is I'm pretty asymptomatic, just some minor pains and the occasional arythmia despite a diet that wasn't exactly heart healthy.
So now I'm also watching my cholesterol and sodium and trying very hard not to feel too sorry over the sudden blandness of my diet. :)
Mind you, I wonder about the bike riding and if it's actually helping. If my left ventrical is working too hard shouldn't I work it less? This is on a long list of questions I have for the cardiologist whom I won't see until May. (Gotta love Canadian health care, sure it's free but the wait times are long.) For the time being I'm trying to keep my heart rate at 80% of max or below just in case.
Scary stuff, Ceolah. I'm not a physician and have no idea what I'm talking about and I'm sure you've probably read every Internet resource on mitral valve prolapse, but this page says, "Mitral valve prolapse is not at all the sort of "heart condition" that should make anyone apprehensive about engaging in exercise. In fact, exercise is one of the best therapies we have for deconditioning learned sensitivities and relieving neurological symptoms. Studies have shown that people who engage in regular aerobic exercise report a decline in symptoms of chest pain, fatigue, dizziness and mood swings, and panic attacks."
Thanks for that Fritz.
Actually I avoided the internet on this one. My first diagnosis was only for the Hypertrophy. Being the curious sort that I am, I dove into the internet and gave myself a real scare. Plenty of warnings like, "Increased risk of sudden fatal heart attack." I decided to wait until I had all my test results and had discussed them with someone who understood them before doing any further research. Credible medical establishments that put stuff on the web seem to emphasis the worst case, probably so they don't get sued. Or maybe so they can scare people into buying their services.
My GP did point out that the prolapse is common and not a huge cause for concern, but something has her worried enough to insist I start taking cholesterol lowering meds. She also threaten to put me on high blood pressure meds if I didn't clean up my act.
Bicycling cured my migraines
I've commented before about how riding his bike to school this year has allowed my ADD son to do better without his meds than previous years with meds and no riding to school.
I'd like to see a Freakonomics study on the relationship to the rise of ADD and ADHD compared to the decrease in children walking and bicycling to school...