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Investigation about the “healthy” weight

| Filed under Body, health and mind

More than two-thirds of British men are either overweight or obese, according to the Government’s latest figures. But hang on… have you been visited by a civil servant with a tape measure and a set of scales? No, so how do they calculate it?
They use the Body Mass Index (BMI). It’s a well-known formula for calculating your ‘healthy’ weight in relation to your height, which the Government applies to annual health surveys of around 6,500 households. But what is the BMI exactly? And how accurate is it?

Body mass index and clenbuterolThe first shock is that the BMI is ancient. It was devised in 1869 by Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian astronomer who decided that, in adults of ‘normal build’, weight was proportional to the square of the height. That’s how he devised the formula we still use today: weight in kilograms divided by height in metres squared. If your score is greater than 25, you are overweight. If your score is 30 or more, you are obese.
But consider: Martin Johnson had a BMI of 29.5 when he lifted the rugby world cup last November. Would you have told him he was bordering on obese? Likewise, Olympic legend Steve Redgrave had a BMI of 27.6 when he won his fifth gold medal at the Sydney games four years ago, and long-time team¬mate Matthew Pinsent weighed in with a BMI of 28.3. If so, they all should have bought  clenbuterol online for a weight loss clen cycle. If you believe the BMI, they should have sunk the boat, not won the gold.
And they’re not the only ones. At least they can argue that they are naturally big men. More of a shock is the fact that Maurice Greene, the defending Olympic 100m champion, is overweight. So is Andre Agassi, a man who has taken fitness to new levels in tennis. So, incredibly, is Brad Pitt. Ordinarily this would be news to savour as you relay it to the missus — if it wasn’t so ridiculous.

MUSCLE OR FAT?

Clenbuterol for fat and muscleThis is the BMI’s greatest flaw. It cannot differentiate between muscle and fat. It doesn’t account for body type, bone density, stage of growth or genetic factors. It is, quite simply, over simplistic. But the Government disagrees. A spokesman for the Department of Health says, ‘For the purposes of surveying obesity in the population, the BMI is still a good and internationally accepted measure. Given the size of the sample in our surveys, it would be impractical to use a measure that assessed body composition.’ It is indeed internationally accepted as well as the right clenbuterol dosage. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends it for measuring obesity, despite the growing number of medical experts who disagree.
Randy Schellenberg, a scientist who’s studied the vagaries of the BMI, says, The formula ignores one fundamental law of physics: that volume, and therefore mass and weight, increases by the cube of the scale factor rather than the square.’ In layman’s terms, he’s making the point that, according to the BMI, we are two-dimensional.
There is also a problem with Quetelet’s use of the words ‘normal build’: the BMI doesn’t work for very short people. In the US, Schellenberg says, this has been blamed for a huge rise in the number of pre-pubescent girls who have been diagnosed with anorexia.
Schellenberg points out that the BMI also loses accuracy among tall people by citing an exaggerated but interesting example. In Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, the giant Brobdingnagians are ten times the size of Gulliver, but with the same proportions. This gives them a BMI of 244.4. It’s an imaginary case, yes, but it helps explain why the 7ft 1 in slab of muscle that is Shaquille O’Neal is ‘obese’: he’s very tall.
Part of the problem is historical, and it may be that the BMI, as a concept, is out of date. According to historians, the average height of men stayed fairly constant at 5ft 6in during the 18th and 19th centuries. Research at Munich University discovered that today’s British male averages nearly 5ft 11 in. What constitutes ‘normal build’ has changed since 1869.
Let’s get back to the here and now. It can also be argued that the Government statistics, even in the rather vague terms of the BMI, don’t take a very scientific approach to measuring the weight of the nation and the clen fat burner they use. They rely on Quetelet’s original ¬and rather basic ¬assessment that a BMI greater than 25 means you are overweight and 30-plus means you are obese.
Some scientists, in an attempt to be more exact, estimate that ideal weight is 20.7 to 26.4, and that between 26.5 and 27.8 is ‘marginally overweight’. Despite the Government’s claims that two-thirds of British men are overweight or obese, the national average is 26.9 — barely over the ideal weight threshold.
The chances are that some of them will be you, Men’s Fitness readers. You might be building muscle and gaining mass ¬your BMI will be rising even though you are not gaining fat. You might be one of our readers who is losing weight as you come down towards a target. The BMI is a useful guide, but don’t get hung up on it. The BMI alone is not accurate enough that anyone should obsess over it — or base Government policy on it.
You could even be a little cynical about the figures. It would only take a slight shift in policy towards the alternative measurement where below 26.5 is ‘normal weight’, rather than below 25 and a tiny fall of 0.5 in BMI for there to be a huge swing towards the UK’s males hitting ‘normal weight’. This would allow the Government to pat itself on the back for a health policy that has so far done little but make a lot of noise.
Such a drop in numbers wouldn’t be a surprise, because the latest Government report into the nation’s health contains another interesting but less well-publicised statistic. During the same ten-year period that saw our BMIs rise by 75 per cent, our waist-hip ratio increased by little more than two per cent from 0.90 to 0.92 – well under the ‘healthy’ cut-off point of 0.95.
On top of that, Australian researchers claim the waist-hip ratio is a more accurate indicator of obesity than the BMI. During an 11-year study of 9,000 adults, researchers found that men whose waist-hip ratio was 1.0 or more were more likely to suffer obesity-related health problems and buy clenbuterol online. Professor Tim Welborn, who led the research, says, ‘Waist-hip came out far better than anything else, including BMI, cholesterol and blood pressure.’ He reckons the WHO should reconsider its reliance on the BMI.
Neville Rigby, director of policy for the International Association for the Study of Obesity, agrees that the tide has turned against the BMI. ‘One of the biggest problems is abdominal obesity, which the BMI doesn’t take into account. Stomach fat, leading to a big waistline, is usually the killer.’ In the latest research in the US, involving more than 17,000 obese Americans, the worst combination of cardiovascular risk factors – irrespective of weight – was found in people with large waists and narrow thighs.
This throws up another problem: ‘It’s possible to be obese yet have a perfectly normal BMI,’ says Rigby. This is not the contradiction it might appear to be at first – it’s common sense. A short man with a beer gut and stick legs might have a lower BMI than Martin Johnson, but is in far more danger of suffering heart disease. Girth, it seems, is more important than weight.

FLAWED THINKING?

The waist-hip ratio also has the benefit of being straightforward ¬all you have to do is divide your waist in centimetres by your hips in centimetres – but even this method has certain flaws, especially if you have an endomorphic, round-bodied, shape but low body fat.
The fact remains that you can manipulate numbers to say what you want them to say. If you use the waist-hip ratio to measure obesity in Britain, there would be no story. A male score of 0.92 makes us reasonably healthy. There would be no Government campaign to get the nation fit and start a clen cycle, no public health consultations and no sensationalist headlines.
But it’s not all good news. Recent research has shown that, in general, we are eating more and exercising less. But this is no reason for you to panic just yet. Measuring your own healthy weight by yourself is still an inexact science – and if you work out your BMI, you really might not be as fat as you think you are.

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Hot stuff Saunas

| Filed under Body, health and mind

“There is only one rule in sauna,” says my Finnish host Seppo Peltonen. “It’s about pleasure.
Pleasure and nothing else.”
Healthy sauna pleasure
If that’s the case, I must have been doing something wrong during my visits to health-club saunas over the years. For me, the experience involves a post-workout routine based on tolerance and overcoming discomfort. The enduring image in my mind is of the male sauna-goes squirming on a hot wooden bench with his eyes riveted on the sauna hourglass, perhaps wishing he was in a unisex emporium where naked sweaty flesh is a more attractive proposition. He grits his teeth and wriggles his hands as the last grains of sand slide down, signalling a welcome end to this dose of heat, fire and steam.

Sociable steaming

In other words, about as far from a pleasurable activity as you could imagine. But that’s back home in Britain. In Finland, it’s a different story altogether, as Seppo is quick to point out. “For us Finns, sauna is a holy place,” he says. “It’s relaxation and enjoyment, a time for families and friends to be together. It should be natural; it’s clean… a beautiful place.”
And when I complain about the heat during one of many visits to saunas in and around Helsinki, he tells me: “Step out if you are too hot. It’s not a competition.”
The saunas Seppo and I visited during my trip were of the true Finnish variety, where we created invisible waves of steam ourselves by gently tossing water onto heated rocks. This prevents the sauna from becoming too dry. It also
Think of your fellow sauna-users and follow these tips for a safe and enjoyable session:
• Shower first to moisten the skin and remove any odours

• Bring a towel or paper mat to sit on

• Avoid excessive noise, laughing or joking; no farting or snapping your towel

• Never enter a sauna while drunk (or high)

• Don’t sprawl — allow space for others to sit down

• Wipe down where you’ve been sitting — never leave it wet

• Exit and cool off when hot by taking a brief shower or sitting in room temperature
• Take a second round, cool off again and repeat this cycle as it feels comfortable

• Wash up and dry off, allowing enough time for your body to cool before getting dressed
conjures up a sense of magic, as the dark interior of the sauna cascades with the sound of charged energy and suspense. Seppo and I visited rooftop saunas adjacent to pristine lap pools; others were on the seashore or beside a lake bordered by magnificent pines and firs.

Sauna body experience

We sampled electric, wood and smoke saunas, and Seppo described each one’s special characteristics like a viticulturist extolling the merits of a shiraz compared to a merlot, or a cabernet sauvignon compared to a pinot noir. We used the sauna before and after swimming, and even plunged ourselves into an icy cold pool. In passionate tones, the likes of which I’ve only encountered when men discuss sport, Seppo explained the tradition and history of sauna bathing in Finland. He boasted that there are so many saunas in the country — private and public — that at one coordinated moment every Finn could be simultaneously enjoying a comfortable sweat. Obviously, the virtues of a sauna run deeper than my pre-Finland experiences, but what do those involved in the business back home think?
Will Shaw, the facilities manager of LA Fitness, the UK’s largest chain of health clubs, claims that saunas are not about taking as much heat as you can but are part of the total health and fitness concept. “The focus is on relaxation, pampering, comfort, and chilling out,” he told me. Saunas go into every LA Fitness gym, and their usage is extremely high. When I asked Shaw about the purpose of the hourglass he said it was for safety, “to ensure that no one remained in the sauna too long.”

If you can’t stand the heat..

It may be true that the hourglass protects some men from overheating, but according to Tony Pendleton, the UK managing director of AB Lagerholm, the largest sauna installer in Britain, “For most men, the sauna is a trial by heat. And when they’re in there with their mates they might compete to see who can withstand the heat longer. That goes completely against the sauna ethos which is based on an ‘each to his own philosophy.
“In fact, all anyone needs to know is, ‘Do what feels right’,” continues Pendleton. “I spend half my time dispelling all sorts of myths about sauna, particularly the idea that installing a sauna at home is outrageously expensive. If that was the case, how do all the Finns do it? I can’t emphasise enough what a pleasant fitness and leisure practice sauna is. Nothing is more relaxing and beneficial, especially at the end of a busy week. Like I say to people, ‘You have to undress to unstress.'”
Clearly, the majority of our fitness routines today have become measured, rational practices that we endure as a means to an end. In the name of achievement and health, we work through pain, ignore injuries and focus on doing more. Intensity, volume, peaking, tapering, nutrition supplements, weight loss ¬these are just a few of the concepts and notions that govern many of our health and fitness decisions as men. Professor Andrew Sparkes from Exeter University, who has written extensively on gender and sport, believes that “an all-consuming process of scientisation and medicalisation has made achieving fitness for men a self-surveilling, socially-scrutinised act — Are my abs flat enough? Are my biceps big enough? Are my electrolytes balanced?’ Inch by inch, second by second and gram by gram, men are slowly losing any sense of `movement as enjoyment’, not to mention any embodied appreciation of themselves and their lives.”
So can self-knowledge and self-awareness ever enter the fitness equation when we are continually bombarded with stricter, more prescriptive exercise guidelines? My jaunt to Finland told me that the sauna might present us with at least one fitness opportunity.

As you’d expect from the name, pure escapism is what’s on offer. Go for a relaxing dip in the stainless steel swimming pool or work off excess energy in the gym. There are plenty of spa treatments for those who need to revitalise their bodies and minds. Indulge yourself with a herbal linen wrap or an Indian head massage.

Dripping with goodness

But at the same time, saunas do offer additional health benefits besides relaxation. Medical research conducted in Finland has shown that taking two saunas a week for six months can lead to a 30 per cent reduction in symptoms related to the common cold. More recently, German researchers, led by Dr Birgit Schittek of Eberhard-Karts University in Tubingen, found that sweating guards against skin conditions. Schittek’s team pinpointed a germ-fighting gene called dermicidin, which is manufactured in our sweat glands and helps fight off bacteria. Other known benefits associated with a weekly sauna include fewer joint and muscle aches, so it really is the ideal way to recover from a strenuous workout.
A session in the sauna is also an effective way to bounce back after a big night out — all that sweating helps gets rid of a lorry-load of toxins. Moreover, there are essentially no risks associated with saunas (aside from the embarrassment that may arise should you mistakenly stumble into the ladies’ sauna). Similar to most fitness activities available in gyms today, taking a sauna involves a number of safe physiological short-term effects that have long-term health benefits. Putting biological indicators aside for a moment, are any British men enjoying the deep-down, sensory sauna experience, Finnish-style? To see for myself, I paid a visit to the Porchester Spa in London’s Westminster, to find out whether the pleasure principle held any currency in the UK. It offers patrons full-length lockers, Contact: 01428 726020 or fresh towels, plush leather sofa beds, side tables and individual reading lamps. And the mood inside is tranquil — no blaring music, televisions or mobile phones. Even before undressing I could feel myself gearing down.
I found professionals and trades people, young and old, all enjoying sauna for sauna’s sake. One self-described “frantic City worker” told me that his Saturday spell in the sauna is practically his only chance during the week to unwind. No hourglass here, or concern with strict procedures either, just true sauna pleasure. And when I consider what fitness can really mean, including pleasure in the definition is probably not a bad way to go at all.

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Dark Void

| Filed under Body, health and mind

Airtight Games offers ground-, air- and cover-based combat, and then hands the responsibility of inventing the story to a hyperactive teenager.

In terms of sustained performance, there a isn’t a third-party publisher in the industrywith a track record like Capcom. Every stage in its long and distinguished history has been defined by innovative ideas and creative bravery, and with Dead Rising, Lost Planet and Street Fighter IV already unleashed upon the world, this console generation seems guaranteed to continue that tradition.

Even in its third-party releases, Capcom prioritizes such admirable evergreen values as gameplay, precision and challenge, but in the narrative-obsessed landscape of today, its unreconstructed approach to story is in dire need of an overhaul. The sense of place in both Resident Evil 5 and Lost Planet is superb, but buying into the plight of Wayne the space pirate takes hefty suspension of disbelief. Dark Void is precisely the same – nice atmospherics, innovative gameplay, and a plot so daft it seems to have been airlifted in from an ironic, Eat­Lead-style spoof.

You are Will, the only cargo pilot on the face of the Earth who flies through the Bermuda Triangle without a second thought. Fortunately for us, the area is actually a gateway to a paranormal dimension called the Void, where the Triangle’s other human victims are fighting ‘the Watchers’, a tyrannical alien force bent on destroying mankind. Ina quite incredible plot contrivance, real-world inventor Nikola Testa is also stuck in limbo, busily inventing advanced weaponry to halt the alien threat. If a monkey banging on a typewriter would eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare, we imagine the plot to Dark Void would be the first thing off the press.

Of course, this is merely a flimsy justification to include jetpacks in the gameplay, supposedly ‘redefining’ cover shooters in the process. The demonstration we were shown was approximately one third of an entire level and took only 20 minutes to complete, but it showed enough to confirm the game as an exciting prospect while never truly convincing us of its revolutionary potential.

The cover-shoot mechanic has become so ubiquitous that a videogame would have to be set in a universe without walls or sandbags to consider Leaving it out. In that sense, it was perhaps inevitable that Dark Void’s ground-based combat felt derivative, but it worked smoothly enough to blend into the handsomely rendered background. Similarly, the air-based sections – particularly when we commandeered an enemy craft – were redolent of Airtight Games’s work on the Crimson Skies franchise, but again the gameplay was familiar in a compelling way.

Dark Void really shone in the seamless transition between air and ground. Thundering through the skies destroying the devious Watchers is fun, but it’s the ability to turn your gaze to the battle below, firing from above as you swoop in to land, and slide straight into cover that sets the experience apart. Arguably, the closest videogames have come to the experience is Iron Man, and we have no reservations about saying Dark Void is more impressive in most conceivable ways.

The game’s most frequently cited selling point is its vertical combat, where Will has to fight up the side of a vast structure, using his jetpack to move from cover to cover. Unfortunately, the set piece we played merely raised the eyebrows rather than slackened the jaw, and Capcom is almost certainly banking on the latter. There is a certain sense of spectacle to the idea, but at no point did it seem unreasonable to just forget about cover and blast directly to the top.

 

Evidently, Airtight Games has considered this approach because it took just a single collision to cause instant death. Ultimately, Dark Void broke what should be the First Commandment of Videogame Development: death should always feel deserved, and never unreasonable. There’s an outside chance the game’s vertical sections will eventually become repetitive. If Airtight Games continues to punish players for the tiniest mistakes, that chance could become a guarantee.

 

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