You’re not as healthy as you think

By Liz Montes

According to a recent study conducted by the giant insurance company Aetna, Americans have a disconnect when it comes to how healthy they see themselves. The study was interesting; it measured people’s responses to everything from how healthy we see ourselves compared to other generations… to how much we really exercised, do we really want to exercise, and even how we see ourselves in the mirror in our underwear.

As we have lost our status as the number one most obese country in the world down to the number two spot, behind Mexico, we find all this study on exercise and obesity much more interesting. And the study reveals how much in denial we are in when it comes to our health. In fact, we are actually much less healthy than we see ourselves. It is a surprising fact that I realized some time ago in the gym. Many people come in with a very different view of their health and fitness level. However, many begin to see their lack of fitness after they are asked to do some simple basic exercise movements. Boy, this was an eye-opener for many with the response always being, “I used to be able to do that.” Yes, I think to myself, about 20 or 30 years ago!

For example, one of the things the study found was that, even though 67 percent believed they needed to lose 25 pounds or more, 57 percent still saw themselves as healthy, even though they were overweight!

Many Americans feel their own generation is the healthiest; these were the folks who felt that they needed to lose 25 pounds or more. Forty-five percent felt their generation is the healthiest, followed by their parents’ generation, and then followed by the generation younger than them. Of course the study found that those surveyed who were between the ages of 25 and 64 do consider “healthy” in very different ways. Baby boomers who are those between the ages of 50 and 64 are two times more likely to consider themselves healthier than GenXers and the Millennials.

Millennials, those between the ages of 18-34 year olds believe they are healthier because they eat more healthily and exercise more; even though 37 percent admittedly drink more alcohol to help deal with stress. And, talk about vanity, about half of those in the survey of both the GenXers and Millennials admit that it is much more important to them how they look in their underwear, than is exercise or proper diet. Nineteen percent of baby boomers admit to being concerned with how they look in underwear (let’s hear it for Spandex).

The other interesting question on the survey was; if you have a choice between extra sleep and working out, which do you prefer? Eighteen percent said they would prefer exercise, whereas 13 percent preferred sleeping. In the 2010 journal of Best Practice and Research the study found that not getting enough sleep can contribute to weight gain. Sleep deprivation decreases your body’s leptin levels, a hormone that is responsible for helping us to feel full. It also increases ghrelin, another hormone responsible for making us feel hunger.

Lack of sleep will also affect our body’s ability to recover. When you sleep your body releases hormones which help strengthen your bones and muscles. So, not getting enough sleep will limit your body’s ability to recover after intense workouts. Not getting enough sleep will affect you in several ways. It will lower your energy levels, making it very difficult to work out. Studies show that people who do not get enough sleep have lower levels of energy. It’s hard to work out if you’re tired, or worse, you may skip the workouts altogether. It makes you feel less motivated and lazy. It also impairs your memory and ability to concentrate. So, have a little cocktail, look at yourself in the mirror and get a good night’s sleep.

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