Men with dad bods, beware. Your sex appeal appears to be dwindling. Maybe some women still profess to prefer a man with what they consider a sexy “dad bod” but new research finds that the pleasantly plump physique could likely increase health risks later in life.
Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health warn that both men and women who cumulatively gain weight in early and middle adulthood could have a higher likelihood of dying prematurely or face serious health risks in later life. The study published online in JAMA, found that when they compared people who managed to keep their weight stable over the years to individuals who gained a moderate amount of weight (5-22 pounds) before age 55, those who gained weight increased their risk of chronic diseases, premature death, and a reduced likelihood of achieving healthy aging. The more weight a person gained, the greater their risk of chronic diseases.
Study participants who gained a moderate amount of weight not only increased their risk of chronic diseases and premature death but also were less likely to score well on a “healthy aging” assessment of physical and cognitive health. In fact, participants from a meta-analysis of two cohorts found that for every 11 pounds gained there was an associated risk of the following health conditions:
- 30% increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- 14% increased risk of hypertension
- 8% increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- 5% increased risk of dying prematurely (among never smokers)
- 17% decreased odd of achieving healthy aging
What this study reveals is what has been known for some time. Once individuals reach their 30s and 40s, they tend to become less active. They usually are in one of the busiest decades of their lives working long hours, spending time with family and assuming more responsibilities than ever before. Unfortunately, this cuts into time spent in exercising consistently or eating a healthy meal plan. Since our metabolism begins to slow down by about 5% per decade after age 30, it is very easy for weight gain to creep up unexpectedly and before they know it, they’ve gained more weight than planned. This is also when back and knee injuries become apparent which is often a result of lugging around excess weight.
These findings remind us that there are health consequences of extra weight gain. More health professionals need to pay attention to their client’s weight over the years addressing the issue when they notice gains. To help individuals reach a healthy body weight, more preventative measures are needed to educate the public on eating healthy diets and encouraging physical activity.
5 Secrets to ditching the “Dad bod”
Becoming a dad can be thrilling and fullfilling but also time-consuming. Any free time a dad may have had before fatherhood, quickly gets eaten up in spending time caring and being with their children. While dads should be involved in child-rearing, dedicating their lives to raising and supporting their children, this does not mean neglecting taking good care of themselves. In fact, all dads should set an example by living and leading a healthy lifestyle. Here are 6 ways to do it:
- Get back to basics
Seasoned dads will tell new dads “time is precious.” So, take advantage of any bit of time here and there to sneak in some physical activity. If you’ve got five minutes to workout, make the most of it with the basics – run in place, do jumping jacks, jump rope to your favorite music, do planks, squats, lunges, or pushups. None of these moves require equipment, just your motivation and energy to get them done.
- Plan healthy meals
You know what they say – you are what you eat and food choices are the biggest determent of reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight. Physical activity is still important but eating a healthy diet has the starring role. If you find yourself rushing or skipping meals, likely you are resorting to fast food or convenience foods (frozen pizza, burritos, etc.) with little regard to the nutritional value of your meals. Strict diets are not the answer. The answer is eating 3 well-balanced meals a day. Avoid long stretches without eating as it only sets you up for overeating and making poor food choices when hunger calls. Plan regular meals and include lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean meat, fish, and low-fat dairy.
- Sneak in workout with your kids (or grandkids)
Get your kids involved in your physical activity. While you wouldn’t take them to the gym to lift heavy weights or on a 10-mile run, but do incorporate mini-workouts while being with your kids during the day. While they are playing with toys, do pushups or planks. Take them to the park or in your backyard to play tag or kick a ball. Put little ones in a stroller while you walk briskly around a zoo or on a nature trail. Get creative and use baby gear as free weights. For example, use their car seats as dumbbells when carrying your child. Or do a simulated bench press as you lay on your back lifting your child into the air and back to your stomach.
- Make your health a priority
Men with dad bods often got that way due to complacency. When “married with children,” there’s the feeling all the other guys have a “dad bod” so that must be the norm. You stop working out regularly, you eat unhealthy foods, and you’re under a lot of stress. But, to give in to what’s common, also means you are likely giving in to harming your health. Instead, work on what goals you have for your health, starting with getting in better shape to get that toned body back. When you set your focus on the healthy benefits of regular exercise, healthy eating, reducing stress, and getting sufficient sleep, you’re well on your way toward dodging serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
- Make healthy choices a habit
The key to ditching or avoiding the dad bod is consistency of making healthy choices a habit. According to research, it takes about 66 days to form a habit before it becomes a consistent part of your life. Too many people will try a diet or new exercise regimen for a couple of weeks, then takes a month off before starting it up again. That usually leads to failure. Stay strong by being consistent and determined to make healthy habits the choice you naturally choose each and every day.