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Monday, July 27, 2009
  $1400 per year in medical expenses for the obese
By Yokota Fritz 
New research shows medical spending averages $1,400 more a year for an obese person than for someone who's normal weight.

The higher expense reflects the costs of treating diabetes, heart disease and other ailments far more common for the overweight.

"Unless you address obesity, you're never going to address rising health-care costs."
More in the Wall Street Journal.

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.

Props to my anonymous tipster.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009
  How to avoid swine flu
By Yokota Fritz 
Go outside and ride a bicycle!

Velo Bella


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.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008
  Team Type 1
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."

More:

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007
  Cycling in wildfire smoke
By Yokota Fritz 
I participated in the latest issue of The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast (posted last night), where we talked about fires, Interbike, RAGBRAI bike bans, and bike shop service. If you haven't listened to it yet, you can download the podcast here.


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.

Untitled photo by Yaniv Golan.

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Monday, October 29, 2007
  Stiffer bikes for stronger bones and weight loss
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.

Read or listen: Vibrations Shown to Build Bone, Reduce Fat.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007
  Gasoline makes you fat
By Yokota Fritz 
Santa Cruz Highway 1
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.

Props to Tim Grahl for this news.

Other news:

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Friday, March 30, 2007
  Fear keeping kids indoors, fat, and unhealthy
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."

Read more.

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Monday, March 19, 2007
  A bicycle saved my life!
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.

Found via Warren who posted the link to Commute By Bike.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007
  Bicycling cured my migraines
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.

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