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Are Dads Really Clueless About Their Own Health?

I was doing some browsing on the Web when I came across a blog entry from Dr. David Katz, founder of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. The entry focused on the fact that men, especially fathers, need to turn a deeper focus on health and weight control. At NFI, we’ve made several references to the importance of health in men throughout our variety of resources and content. However, the doctor’s blog featured a few sentences that made me question just how thickheaded are men about getting healthy.

“We know that women are the guardians of the family health. We know that women, wives, mothers tend to do the heavy lifting when it comes to medical care, preventive services and diet,” said Dr. Katz in his blog, no doubt sharing a sentiment long shared by many. However, I grew up around men like my grandfathers and uncles who were always on top of their health. I’m particularly worrisome about my own health for a variety of reasons, some of which are hereditary.

Much like the meme going around that fathers are clueless when it comes to caring for their babies, a lot of archaic notions about men continue to be perpetuated. I became especially aware of my health needs after becoming a father. In fact, my peers who became dads all followed suit. How some of us arrived to that point was actually simple: taking care of children is taxing! I remember feeling like everything was hurting while running after my toddler, saying to my doctor that I needed to feel whole again.

I do get Dr. Katz’s overall point. As a father of five children and the editor-in-chief of the medical journal Childhood Obesity, he has an obligation to preach to the masses the importance of health. His blog was more so a call to fathers to set better examples for their children. I truly enjoyed his stance on saying that men who find working out and eating better to be feminine traits are acting “un-guy like” – slamming the notion that men can eat and do whatever they want without repercussions.

Dr. Katz is simply urging dads to eat better so their kids will too. The rapid rise in stroke risks in children between the ages of 5 and 14 attributed to obesity is unacceptable. The old adage “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” certainly applies in this case. Good health has to start somewhere, and fathers have a responsibility to lead by example.

I may not have been exposed to many men or fathers who were reluctant about staying healthy, but I do know we can all do better in providing a pathway to healthier living for our children by starting with ourselves.

Guest post: 3 Easy Tips for Staying Healthy in 2012

This is a guest post from Ashley Kemper, a member of Long Island Heart Associates, in partnership with the Mount Sinai Medical Center. LIHA is a cardiology practice in Long Island, New York that has been keeping its community heart-healthy since 1994. Ashley provides some great tips on how dads can stay healthy in the New Year. As we like to say at NFI, to be a good dad, you have to be alive... and more importantly, the health habits you adopt set an example that your kids will follow!

Getting healthy is one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions. For many dads, this can be a challenge each year. As dads grow older, the motivation and ability to stay physically fit becomes more difficult, but the importance of maintaining health remains. Here are some tips to helping dads stay healthy in 2012:

Plenty of exercise: Whether your form of exercising is running, biking, or sports, some type of cardiovascular activity more than once a week is strongly encouraged. Exercising as a family such as a friendly game of football or skiing are great for improving fitness. Make sure you consult a heart doctor before engaging in any strenuous physical activity.

Rest and sleep: Exhaustion and lack of sleep can lead to poor health. As dads and most adults age, adequate rest becomes vital to recharging and having a healthy heart. A Long Island sleep study showed that losing sleep can come from stress, working long hours, or sleep apnea. Dads need to give themselves time to sleep and allow their body to recover for healthy living.

Less drinking: It’s not uncommon to have a few drinks during the week with coworkers and friends. However, studies have shown that binge drinking doubles the risk of heart disease. The limit of alcohol consumption for people varies, so it is important to drink in moderation while maintaining a healthy balance of eating and exercising.

Staying healthy can be a challenge for dads, but these steps should be taken to enjoy a positive lifestyle.

Dads Playbook Podcast with NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell. Week 6: Getting fit2father

Welcome to the sixth installment of our 10-week podcast series, "Dads Playbook featuring NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell."


Who better to learn about fitness from than an NFL quarterback!? We always say here at NFI (somewhat tongue in cheek) that you can't be an involved father if you are not alive. That is why it is so important for dads to get and stay fit and to help their children do the same. We launched a campaign called fit2father to help dads with this very idea. Let's hear what Mark has to say about fitness.

Click here to download the podcast on Mark’s game plan for being an All-Star Dad when it comes to fitness.

Fatherhood is as Serious as a Heart Attack... Literally

A new study (described in this article and in many other places) has found that fathers are less likely than other men to die of heart disease.

To summarize, "childless men were 17 percent more likely to have died of heart disease during the decade [under study] than the men who were fathers." The article goes on to talk about the potential link between infertility and heart disease, which is very interesting.

But I really like what the researcher says towards the end of the article:
"There may be more than just a biologic reason" for the childless men’s higher risk of dying of heart disease, (Dr. Michael) Eisenberg says. After all, other studies have shown men who live alone tend to die sooner than men who don’t, he says, and maybe having kids spurs men to take better care of themselves.

We often say here at NFI that in order to be a good father you have to be alive. We know that one of the biggest motivators for men around a variety of issues is their children. Taking care of their health appears to be no different.

I know in my own life that since my son was born, I have been much more interested in staying healthy - my wife and I have gone through P90X, and are doing Insanity as we speak.

And this is why NFI does its fit2father campaign every year. In fact, you should take the pledge today to join other dads in getting healthy for their kids' sakes!

So, we are not necessarily surprised by the conclusion and interpretation of this new study. However, men do still live about 6 years less than women, and one of the reasons is that they don't go to the doctor nearly as often as women do. So, while we know that having children motivates men to do better, they still have a ways to go to make sure they are doing all they can to be around for their children for as long, and as healthily, as possible.

Guest Post: It Takes a Healthy Heart

This is a guest post from Angel Cicerone, president and co-founder of GetSweaty.com, an initiative to provide parents and educators with physical activity ideas and information for children.

You can only be a better dad if you are alive!

This is a post from NFI's Director of Corporate Relations, Tom Patras.

Six months ago, during church, a friend surprised everyone by wheeling his 85 pound son on stage in a wheel barrow. Pointing to his son, he exclaimed, “This is how much weight I’ve lost!” After receiving a standing ovation from the congregation, my friend went on to share that he’d been facing serious health issues due to an unhealthy lifestyle. He finally woke up when our Pastor confronted him and said, “What are you doing? You have a wife and kids and you are eating yourself to death!”

As I listened to my friend, it took everything in me to keep from crying. I was happy for him, but sobered that my Pastor’s words could easily have been directed at me. Weight issues are a generational plague in my family. After many failed attempts at losing weight (and keeping it off), I felt discouraged and defeated. I’d reached my heaviest weight ever and was frankly disgusted with myself. With health issues mounting, I knew I needed to change the trajectory of my life. So…inspired by my friend’s success with the Take Shape For Life program, I decided that if it worked for him, why not me?

During my first week on the program, I had a pivotal moment. One day, a scene from The Biggest Loser came to mind. In the scene, a 25 year old girl was told by a doctor that based on the condition of her organs, she was living in the body of a 55-year-old woman. Suddenly the thought hit me – “holy cow, that’s 30 years! That’s almost two generations!” I then asked myself, “What kind of an example am I setting for my children? What kind of legacy am I building for future generations? Do I want my wife and kids grieving over my untimely death because I wasn’t willing to do everything in my power to fight for my health?”

In that moment, I said, “I’m done! I’m going to engage in (and win) this battle. I’m going to be a chain breaker and change the legacy of my family for future generations.”

Six months later, I’m 68 pounds lighter! At 39, I’m the same weight I was as a freshmen in high school. I have tons of energy, am much more confident, and feel better than I have in years.

No doubt there are fathers reading this post who are battling weight-related health issues – you may be one of them. If so, I encourage you to join NFI’s 30 Days to Be a Better Dad Campaign and make it a priority to get healthy in 2011.

BUT, don’t go it alone! 85% of people who try to lose weight without support gain it back within 2 years. Also, find a plan that teaches you how to build healthy habits for life. There is no magic pill or medical procedure that will allow you to eat whatever (and however much) you want.

Building a healthy lifestyle takes commitment, but you can only be a better dad if you are alive!

"X"-Treme Fathering

You've seen the infomercials, but have you felt the pain!? (and I mean that in a good way)

I am talking about the "extreme home fitness training program," P90X.

Six months after our son Vinny was born, my wife had not yet lost all of her pregnancy weight, and I had packed on a few sympathy pounds myself. We decided, based on feedback from friends, to give P90X a try.

What a great decision it was! Doing the program together had huge benefits. Some nights, I did not want to work out, but my wife pushed me. Some nights she did not want to work out, and I pushed her. Since we were both on the plan together, we could easily empty the fridge of the bad foods neither of us should eat anymore and fill it with the good stuff.

Don't get me wrong; it was hard. With an infant to care for, we did most of our workouts from 8:30 to 9:30 at night, after the baby was asleep. Try working out every weeknight for an hour for 13 weeks. Yes - we missed a few workouts. We "made up for" most of them by doing two workouts on a Saturday. But towards the end, we missed workouts and did not make up for them. Sometimes feeding, playing with, and bathing the baby took too much out of us to "bring it" at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday.

But overall, the results have been great. I lost about 12 pounds, and got stronger. I can see my ribs for the first time in 15 years! My wife lost about 15 pounds, and is now below her pre-pregnancy weight. We both feel much better and we continue to eat much more healthily.

As NFI does its fit2father campaign and gears up for the Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause 8K, we would love to hear from dads about how they are getting and staying in shape.

How are you staying "fit2father," dads?

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