Saturday, December 16, 2017

Keep Moving

An article in the November 26, 2017 edition of the New York Times titled “Stepping Backward” highlighted a study conducted by psychologists at Brunel University, London and the University of Birmingham. In this particular study, 100 healthy boys and girls ages 13 and 14 were employed. Apparently, these subjects were socioeconomically represented and incorporated a broad cross-section of adolescents. These young students filled out questionnaires about how they felt about their exercise and their fitness. Every subject was given an activity monitor as part of the program. The goal was 10,000 steps each day. These results were recorded on a “leaderboard” that highlighted the most and least active in the group. After two months, the students completed more questionnaires and participated in focus group discussions. The student’s interest seemed to diminish after about a month or so. They started complaining about the monitors and reported that it made them feel lazy if they didn’t manage the 10,000 steps each day. Many said they considered themselves more physically inept than they had before the start of the study. A fairly large percentage of the students reported that they felt less motivated to be active now than before getting the monitor. According to one of the psychologists “You can’t just give a child a fit bit for Christmas and expect him to be active.” This study was not about the monitor, but about physical activity. Linda just mentioned to me after her walk “I hate walking, it’s not fun even with the distraction of music.” Physical activity can be boring and difficult regardless of age. Psychologically, physical activity can be enjoying depending upon the meaning for that individual. Then, if one has a high need for achievement, that individual can find a sport in which physical activity plays an important part in its success. Or, if one has a high need for affiliation then one can find a physical activity that has to do with a partner or partners. Remember, Hamlet “there’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking, makes it so.” Recently, Thom Darden told me that he bought his mother, a gym membership because he was concerned about her lack of physical activity. He then accompanied her to the gym. When he returned home, he found out that she was no longer attending the gym. Like those teenagers having a gym membership or a fit bit does not translate into physical activity. Physical activity works best when it is incorporated and is a significant part of one’s psychological makeup {history, need structure, intrinsic, pleasure, fear of failure etc.}, gives or provides immediate and concrete benefits or results [not because it is necessarily good for you or would likely increase one’s lifespan etc.], and is in the here and now. In conclusion, “life is like riding a bicycle: to keep balance ,you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Kyle Busch, Move Over

I just returned from the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School in Las Vegas. According to the brochure, the school “offers high-performance driver training to improve driving technique, provide professional racing instruction, or simply enjoy the opportunity to drive one of America’s fastest production cars.” The brochure also said “participants are trained to test driver and vehicle limits on an exhilarating, purpose- built road course in a safe, controlled environment.” Further, “the racetrack offers an exciting combination of fast sweeping corners, quick esses, off camber turns, over 125 feet of elevation change and four high-speed straights with replicas of some of racing’s most famous corners, including Canadian Tire Motorsport Park 5a and 5b, the Watkins Glen “Bus Stop”, Road Atlanta’s Turn 1 and Laguna Seca’s “Corkscrew.” I was scared, impressed and had my adrenaline flowing during the two days of classroom and track experience. On that first day, I was intimidated and not sure that I could incorporate the eights steps to cornering along with launch control through the racetrack. On the second day, my confidence, driving ability, and muscle memory took over, especially after being a passenger with the pro-driver. He was fast, smooth as I experienced G force motion. I realized that the Corvette was not going to roll over going around those “S” curves at breakneck speed. Then I was the driver as the pro was now the passenger. I eventually learned that I was not going to roll over my Corvette either, as I became more efficient and faster over the racetrack. Then I had opportunities to show what I could do on my own. Linda was in the pace car with the pro-and I was in a group with three other Corvettes. The instructor would comment and give instruction to us rookies during our runs. Linda said that I was keeping up with the pro who was traveling 120 mph. I didn’t have time to notice the odometer as I was visually scanning ahead and downshifting attempting to make sure that the cars balance was appropriate as I was clipping the apex of the curve. By the end of the class, and my last track driving rush, I was thrilled by the experience. I now have a better appreciation of the amazing engineering of my Corvette and what that automobile can do. As far as I can tell, Detroit gets an A for its engineering. I am impressed. As I said before, keep moving.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Working for a Living

The article titled “Why the Pain Persists Even As Incomes Rise” found in the September 17, 2017 The New York Times explained the reality for many in our country. Per the article, the research team evaluated actual earnings starting in 1957, for working individuals ages 25 to 55. The findings were disheartening. Back in 1957, a 25-year-old with a high school education entered the workforce with the median income that we will call X. A few years later, a new individual with a high school education entered the workforce with the median income that we will call Y. The trend that was established until about 1967, was as follows. Each new younger worker{Y} entering the workforce would make significantly more money than the older worker {X}. Simply put, annualized lifetime income of men, adjusted for inflation, rose for the younger worker {Y}. After 1967, the median income for the younger worker{Y} entering the workforce declined. This now meant that the annual lifetime earnings of the younger workers decreased over a lifetime of working. In 1957 many of my high school friends entered the workforce. There were many opportunities with good paying employment back then. The so-called American Dream slogan was alive. It superficially suggested that one would get a job, get married, have children and buy a home. Nowadays, that idea is just an old idea. Some statistical figures illustrate changes. For example, the median income for a high school educated individual age 25 in 1967 it was $33,900. However, in 1988, the median income for a high school educated individual age 25 was $29,000. If your high school educated parent entered the workforce prior to 1967, then the male child offspring was unlikely to earn more than his parent. In other words, there were better paying jobs in our country over 50 years ago. Further, one didn’t have to attend college to earn a decent living. That is not true today. Another example of the stagnation occurring in Middle America is as follows. In 1973, the inflation-adjusted median income of men working full-time was $ 54,030. In 2016, the income was $ 51, 640. Doing the math, that’s about $ 2, 400 less. Now in the global economy, the individual has to have a marketable skill. If not, this reality results in doom, gloom and anger. It’s not a surprise, that we have opioid, alcohol, poor health, and suicide on the rise. Without a skill, one might attain a part-time job in large companies. Walmart and Amazon have positions available for part-timers. It’s not uncommon for the high school educated to have more than one part-time job. One alternative is to attend college and go into debt. A second alternative is to attend some trade, technical, or community college program. A third alternative is to become a part-timer and stay with that line of work in order to develop some specialized,-marketable skill, experience or other opportunity. This alternative is much more palatable for those men that disliked high school or had difficulty learning. If one found learning difficult during the school years, one certainly is not likely interested in attending school to experience failure again. PS A recent example of a marketable skill goes to college football coach Jimbo Fisher. Fisher left his coaching position at Florida State and reportedly signed a 10 year $75 million contract to coach Texas A&M.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thank Goodness for Competitiveness

Asphalt Green has specialized in creating athletic programs for children in the New York schools. This year, the Asphalt Green trainers applied their techniques to older generations in developing a class called “Skills in Motion.”These classes were created to challenge older people to move in ways to preserve and improve their strength and coordination. Preventing older people from falling is a significant issue. The New York State Department of Health stated the cost of hospitalization, because of falls, totaled around 1.7 billion. In these hospitalizations, 60% or so lead to stays in nursing homes or rehabilitation centers. One example within their exercise program is as follows: “Throw the ball in the air, clap one time, catch it, and then pass the ball to the person standing next to you.” In this New York Times article titled “A New Workout for seniors” in the November 12, 2017, edition, various instructors stated they were surprised by their student’s competitiveness and enthusiasm for moving in more strenuous and creative ways. In other words, these class activities meet The American College Dictionary definition of exercise “bodily or mental exertion for the sake of training or improvement.” I’m surprised and disappointed that these Asphalt Green instructors were not knowledgeable regarding the competitiveness of seniors. Since when is competitiveness restricted by age? Competitiveness is a human need and lasts and lasts. Thank goodness for our competitiveness. A more educated understanding of competitiveness can be found in “It Has Nothing To Do With Age.” The stories told are of the competitive nature of driven athletes that are highlighted in various extraordinary sports. If playing an adult version of children games, resulted in seniors moving or exercising, I’m all for it. Everyone knows that exercise has a negative connotation, simply because it takes exertion or simply put, it’s often a grind. Exercise is certainly not easy, nor a common activity among our populace. For trail running, I incorporated my birthday, this year, by completing with my Border Collie, Sherry 78 miles during the week. Tony and his Border Collie, Dale joined us for about 30 miles and Chris was there for about 5 miles. When I told my wife about my plan, she said “That should be easy for you.” Remember, keep moving. Physical inactivity has become the fourth leading risk factor for death globally behind high blood pressure; tobacco use; and high blood glucose.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Effective Thinking

In the October 29, 2017 edition of the New York Times, the article “Thinking on Your Feet” got my attention. A professor of exercise and health promotion at Arizona State University in Phoenix recruited 9 sedentary males and females who were overweight. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the following. During one visit the subjects sat for eight hours while using a computer and/or talking on the phone. Twice during the day, they also completed computerized measures of many thinking drills, including working memory and decision-making. During three other visits, the volunteers broke up there sitting time by standing, walking, at a treadmill desk or pedaling on a modified stationary bicycle placed beneath their desks for at least 10 minutes once an hour. The exercise was a gentle- walking pace, a 1 mph or comparable effort while pedaling. These subjects typed and chatted during these breaks. They also repeated the tests of thinking, memory, and decision-making twice each day immediately after standing or exercising. Previous research suggests that prolonged sitting is related to a higher risk for obesity and heart disease. We also know that exercise is better than sitting. Would standing or exercising, impair the ability to concentrate and think? The findings with this limited group of subjects showed that exercise breaks statistically improved scores on the tests .Specifically, it helped with the kinds of thinking skills that help individuals perform their jobs well- Immediately after standing or moving for 10 minutes or more. The volunteers performed better on all tests of thinking compared to those that sat all day. The gains were greatest for those subjects that peddled their desk bikes. Critically, employing only nine overweight individuals and referring to those tasks as exercise is questionable, to say the least. Be careful about generalizing from this study. However, many years ago I eliminated sitting at my computer, and even thought about the idea of developing and marketing a special desk. Secondly, I actually exercise on my trail runs, that last one and a half hours to five hours at a time. I believe, on a subject of one, that my thinking, memory, and ability to organize without interruptions improves greatly. Often, the outline or writing one of my posts happens during my time on the trail. As I said in the past, keep moving.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Panacea Part 2

If one has received an ALS diagnosis, then it is highly unlikely to consider that person achieving a well-being state. In viewing the physical health of many in the United States, we have a preponderance of obesity, heart disease, cancer, stroke, suicide, opiates, and alcohol diagnoses. These illnesses suggest that these individuals are having a difficult time reaching and enjoying any form of well-being. We know the emotional components of hope, optimism and well-being, is being able to experience happiness in the present, and looking forward to the future. When given a limited timetable, with a closing door, one thinks about their bucket list. According to Mike Keller, “the train has already left the station.” The ingredients for positive physical health are relatively concrete. One study, based on a US survey by the California State Department of Public health suggested: 1. Sleep 7-8 hours a night 2. Always eat breakfast. 3. Snack infrequently 4. Keep weight between 5% under and 20% over desirable standard weight for males and less than 10% over desirable weight for females. 5. Exercise frequently. 6 .Some or little alcohol, 7. Don’t smoke. One may agree or disagree with the seven listed. However, there’s not much disagreement when it comes to assessing the degree of difficulty or following through with these recommendations. These seven ingredients, on the surface, do not seem monumental or difficult to achieve. What seems to me, is that not following through with these or other recommendations is the result or inability of an individuals in making good choices or decisions. Is it simply man’s nature? Man is irrational and employs various defense mechanisms justifying behavior. However, irrational thinking leads to and influences non-productive behavior. Second, man has a need for abasement and employs self-destructive behaviors, and misfortune. This need can reach pathological dimensions. These two components, if unchecked, along with unconscious elements results in illness, and destroys the possibility for well-being. Reaching or achieving self-actualization, well-being and positive overall health is possible, but not probable for many. If moderation, when it comes to eating behavior is absent, and non- applicable as a physical activity can be troublesome when absent. It’s not surprising, that well-being and positive physical health are difficult to achieve and are simply illusions for many. PS After a long plane ride, my sister just arrived from the East Coast. On the plane, she was seated next to a physician who taught emergency room procedures to other physicians. This Dr. complained that she was tired and this was her first time off in the last four years. She said she loved her position. My sister got up in the aisle to stretch while this Dr. verbalized exercises for her in a standing position. Did this knowledgeable, young, overweight doctor also get in the aisle to perform these exercises? No! Once again, it’s about the decisions we make.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Panacea

Albert Maslow a humanistic psychologist, postulated 15 characteristics or needs to be satisfied. If these needs are satisfied, the individual was then capable of experiencing moments of happiness and fulfillment. Existentialists, such as Rollo May, believed that it was possible for man to realize his potential. This was accomplished when the individual accepted the facts that death was a constant; and that within his nature, irrational forces exist, and they cannot be realistically solved through illusions of religion, politics, or other mythology. Erich Fromm wrote that being could have a productive orientation. With a productive orientation, man was able to love, care, respect another, and become creative. If this was not achieved, he could become destructive, conforming, and become non-descript within the masses. More recently, Martin Seligman addressed 3 types of happiness. The first being pleasure and gratification; the second having strength and virtue; and the third finding meaning and purpose. Simplifying, each of these theorists, within a motivational construct, believed that man can fulfill his nature, regardless of his environment. Each within their own framework and terminology, have provided insight, and understanding into man’s potential for excellence. These individuals provided hope within the constructs of existentialism, self-actualization, and well-being. However, these theories are lacking in that they do not address the importance of physical health. One simply cannot omit the importance of positive physical health, when addressing man’s human potential. Is it possible for a human being to achieve the various positive constructs of mental health functioning, if one does not possess excellent physical health? We all know that our body begins to significantly change over the passage of time. In fact, aging affects our immune system, memory, cognitive functions, musculature, sexual functioning and aerobic capacity. Certain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, etc. results in doom, gloom and despair. To Be Continued