Home » Winning The Mental Battle of Physical Fitness and Obesity: Ogie Shaw (Transcript)

Winning The Mental Battle of Physical Fitness and Obesity: Ogie Shaw (Transcript)

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Ogie Shaw at TEDxSpokane

Following is the full transcript/subtitle of fitness Ogie Shaw’s TEDx Talk titled: Winning The Mental Battle of Physical Fitness and Obesity at TEDxSpokane 2014 conference.

Listen to the MP3 audio while reading the transcript: Winning The Mental Battle of Physical Fitness and Obesity by Ogie Shaw @ TEDxSpokane

Ogie Shaw – Fitness Expert

Is exercise important?

Heart disease, cancer, diabetes. One of the things they all have in common is they can be affected by obesity. The first recorded heart attack in this country was in 1896.

In 1896, in this country you had to get exercise to go to the bathroom. Everybody lived on farms. But we got smart.

We start building machines to help us get our work done. We moved to the cities, started pushing buttons for a living and pushing the wrong button could really create a lot of stress. And we started noticing that people starting to die from clogging the arteries.

By the Korean War, half the soldiers, averaging 19 years of age, killed during that war showed significant blockage of coronary arteries.

1956, the Eisenhower administration had a big meeting in Washington DC. The military is noticing something funny starting to happen. It was becoming increasingly difficult to find young American men who could pass the induction physicals for the military. They wanted to figure out who to blame; what’s the problem.

They looked into the public schools, and some researchers had done fitness tests involving the ability of our students at the high school and junior high school level to perform, what they call, functional movements. Just everyday things you might have to do on your job, or in your lives, like can you bend over and you touch your toes, you know?

At 16 years of age, you should be able to put your toes in your mouth. We thought that was the dumbest idea anybody ever came up with the test kids for physical fitness, because we thought the kids are fit just because they’re young.

57.8% of our kids failed that test. We said that can’t be right. If that’s true, we have the most unfit kids in world. And folks, that’s just not possible.

So they decide to take the test of the kids and give it to the kids in Europe. 7% failed.

They start that test all over the world; could not find another group of kids on the planet they had anywhere close to a 7% failure rate on that test. A 57% failure on that test.

We came back, started what eventually became the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Over 40 years now everywhere you turn, somebody’s going to put you and your kids on exercise programs.

And then we got another bright idea. Why don’t we check to see how fit we’ve become? 40% of us are still enthusiastically avoiding exercise. 50% are exercising and still in lousy shape. About 10% are keeping fit.

University of Indiana measured the fitness level of 4 million kids between 6 and 17 years of age, and found that in the middle of all this hoopla about exercise, 57% of our kids are still failing fitness test. And fitness leaders say they’re worse now than they were 30 years ago.

We’re finding 14 to 19-year old kids with 40% blockage of coronary arteries. What used to be called adult onset diabetes is now showing up in kids between 4 and 10 years of age. They say we’re raising the first generation that will have a shorter life expectancy than either their parents or grandparents. It has never before happened in our history.

The state of Oregon has the highest rate of obesity of any state West of The Rockies. Our public schools are being gutted because of budget cuts. And the first thing we always cut is physical education. They formed an Oregon Health Policy Commission to tell us how to solve this problem. They published a 65-page report which basically said we don’t know.

But they said this: Children’s behaviors are substantially affected by the influential adults in their lives – parents, grandparents, and teachers.

Efforts to address childhood obesity in Oregon will not be successful unless they also include interventions that influence the healthy eating and physical activity behaviors of adults as well as children.

Now they worded this message down a bit in their final draft. But the idea was out.

How many of you get all the exercise you need? And if not, why not?

Well, the two most common objections are — what do you think it is.

Number 1: I don’t have time. Every time we ask I don’t have time.

Number 2 — and this surprised me how often they stated and how boldly they stated was: I’m too lazy to do it even when I do have time.

Or the way one guy in South Carolina said it: I swear after college I’d never sweat again. Let’s just call it lack of motivation.

But every time we in the medical and fitness field have been bold enough to ask: why don’t you do it, you’ve been incredibly honest and you’ve been incredibly consistent. You said two things, over and over and over and over again: I don’t have time and I don’t know how to stay motivated to exercise.

And you would think all medical and fitness leaders who cared would have scheduled a national convention somewhere, got into a big room and said let’s just solve these two problems. It has never happened.

As fitness leaders, we are not trained to deal with “I don’t have time, and I don’t know how to stay motivated to exercise.”

I almost changed my major at the University of North Carolina when I heard some guys in California say, “exercise with my wife is to take a bath, pull the plug and fight the current.”

What they teach us to say is ya gotta make exercise fun. Have you ever heard that it’s all over the place, make it fun, make it?

Folks, over the past 39 years, I’ve put over 10,000 Americans on exercise programs and I’m here to tell you I’ve learned a lot about exercise.

One of the things I’ve learned is: if what you’re doing for exercise is fun, I guarantee you you’re not doing it right. There are physiological requirements that must be met in order to benefit from your exercise program, whether you like it or not.

The intensity, the duration, the frequency of your exercise are all more important than whether or not it’s fun. You must work every muscle in the body — the cardiovascular system, flexibility, muscle balance, muscle strength and there’s no single activity or exercise that we know of that adequately works your total body. If you don’t sit down and design a total body workout, it isn’t going to happen.

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So how do you solve this problem?

Well, I got to meet Dr. Mark Angel. Dr. Mark Angel has a dual professorship at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, do a professorship in the Department of Psychology and Health & Human Performance. He wrote an article conceptualizing a new fitness major, he was going to call applied exercise psychology which would have been what I majored in had it existed when I was in school.

But basically what he had done is wrote an article to the Journal of the Board of Sports Psychology explaining what he saw was justification for this new fitness major and explains the problems he saw in physical fitness. And it almost exactly mirrored what I’ve been speaking on for over 30 years to the point where I wanted to meet this guy.

So I flew back to Nashville, drove down to Murfreesboro, looked him up in his office, went up to him, gave a great big bear hug and said you’re my hero and he called for security. And – no, that didn’t happen — but I explained to him what I was doing and he was so appreciative of that and has a new book out and promised to send me a new copy which I haven’t gotten yet.

But what he basically said is this: this fitness problem is more about our mental failures than our physical failures. It’s more about your head, your attitude than it is about your body. He said you just can’t decide to exercise and have it sustained you for the rest of your life. So your brain is going to fight you.

You say I am going to start an exercise program. Your brain says what are you doing? Haven’t we been down this road? Look at you? Look at your dog.

But he says you have to win the mental battle. It’s tough. One guy said he got in his car, decided to go to the health club; he got down to the intersection. The light turned red. He said that’s a sign; turned around and went back home.

But if you can win the mental battle for five consecutive years, you will never go back to your previously sedentary lifestyle. But you got to keep it up.

How do you win the psychological battle associated with getting ourselves to exercise?

Well, make it just that a lifestyle. It has to become a habit.

Now we know that rather than working out every day – excuse me, three days a week, the way we’ve been taught, working out seven days a week, or quote American College of Sports Medicine, “work out most days or every day.” I should thank you. I’ve been saying that for over 30 years.

See, it’s easy to work out everyday than it is to work out three days a week. Three days a week gives you too many decisions. Monday, Wednesday, Friday mm-hmm. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday — can I skip the day and double up tomorrow? Folks, if you’re negotiating about whether or not to work out it’s over.

Do you work out first thing in the morning? You have a 300% greater chance of getting it done than at any other time of day because you have more control over your schedule first thing in the morning than any other time of day.

Try to confine your workout time to 20 minutes or less. The more time you spend exercising the less likely you are to do it and the more likely you are to get injured, will keep you from doing it anyway.

And then work against resistance. If you work against resistance you get tired faster. Now the most important rule in exercise physiology is called the overload principle. It says no benefit occurs in any exercise program until you get tired. The problem is as you get more fit what happens to the amount of work you have to do to get tired, it goes up.

In the public schools they did studies on high school boys and asked them to do as many pushups they could every day until they got tired, do that every day for a year. The boys who could do five push-ups on the first day after year were doing between 100 and 120 to get to the same level of fatigue that five got it on the first day; we’re talking major-league boredom even if you do have time.

And then we say we’ll just go on a diet. Well, folks the quickest way I know to get an American fat is to go on a diet. Don’t ever diet another day the rest of your life. Eat for nutrition. Never eat for weight loss and never make any change in the way you eat that you’re not willing to make permanent.

Now there’s a lot more I want to talk about nutrition. But for lack of time, let’s just concentrate on physical fitness today.

So seven days a week, first thing in the morning, plan to spend about 20 minutes or less and then work against resistance so that as you become more fit you don’t spend more time; you work against more resistance.

So how do you do that?

Well, I was speaking at the University Rotary Club in Seattle. And one of the members came up when I was done and said, “I’m one of the editors for Prentice Hall Publishing. We’re the largest publishing company in America. We have a waiting list of people that want to write books on exercise. Nobody is telling us how to stay motivated and what you told us here today makes more sense than anything I’ve heard anywhere in the country. Will you do a book for my company on fitness motivation.”

I said, “Sure.”

That was 30 years ago. They haven’t gotten motivated to do it yet. But what I said was this: the problem with fitness is we don’t know what fitness is. And the reason we don’t know what fitness is, is because there’s no such thing as generic fitness. Fitness is activity specific.

Until you define what you’re trying to get fit for, the term has no meaning. I’ve trained Portland Trail Blazers. And I’ve trained Seattle Seahawks. I’ve trained real-estate agents and I’ve trained plumbers. Totally different approach to fitness depending on what I’m trying to get done in that fitness program.

So what is the most universal appeal I can make for physical fitness?

And I came down with this: health. Exercise being called the best medicine in America today outperforming almost every prescribed medication in the country in terms of its overall impact on our health — everything from colds and flu to cancer is being impacted by exercise. But you can’t just pay lip service to the idea. You actually have to do it.

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So how much fitness do we need in order to be healthy? I said no problem. I’ll go to the experts. I went to the medical school library in Portland and look up how fit you have to be to stay healthy and for the most part to find virtually nothing written on the subject. Some information on aerobic exercise but other than that there was nothing there.

So I went and talked with physiologists that I had known and read about, and asked them their definition about physical fitness. And there are already tests and norms that had been established for the components that could make up total physical fitness but nobody ever packaged it and said this is the level of fitness you wanted to have. So that’s exactly what I did.

I put together what I could tend it was a level of fitness sufficient to stay healthy and for 14 years took my definition around the medical societies and college physiology departments trying to get somebody to disagree with me and to date have not found one disagreement on one item on my test.

So I turned it into a business that’s still going now in Beaverton Oregon. And then I wanted to get it even out farther to the general public. So I got on the speaker circus, started teaching the general public how to measure their own physical fitness that will be sufficient to impact your health — both physical and mental health, by the way.

And the test which you’ll believe will have a copy of later as this. Here’s your test that you can do at home. I want you to be flexible enough to sit on the floor, your legs straight, and reach your fingertips at least five inches past your toes. Most men can touch your toes; some of you haven’t seen them in five years.

Why is flexibility that big a deal? Because one of the leading causes of not showing up at work in America is my back hurts. 85% of the back pain in America today is being traced to people with tight back muscles caused by weak stomach muscles because you sit so much.

When the stomach muscles go on vacation, the back muscles have to work overtime. They tighten up; you bend over to pick up a pencil and you’re off work for six weeks.

Strengthen your abdominal muscles and stretch your lower back and 85% of an $80 billion to $100 billion problem will either lessen or go away completely but none of you can strengthen your abdominal muscles by taking Doans pills. You have to exercise.

I want you to have enough [cardiovas] injures to be able to step up and down on a 16 and quarter inch box chair or stool or an 8-inch stair for three consecutive minutes. Take the pulse for 15 seconds and multiply the beats by four. If your pulse is higher than 144 beats a minute for men, or 156 beats a minute for women on a sixteen and quarter-inch step, you just failed the test. And 75% of the people in this room, if you’re typical, will fail that test. A lot of you runners don’t have good cardiovascular fitness, but no one has been able to explain that to you, that test will.

And it’s not my test. I didn’t make it up. It’s out there being used by the research community.

And then finally, keep track of your body fat. One lady started a 15 mile a week jogging program, a light weight training hoping to lose weight. She gained eight pounds but dropped six dress sizes, because muscle is heavy and fat takes up less space.

This is a skin fold caliper. I’ve been taking it everywhere I go, every time I speak for over 30 years. It measures subcutaneous body fat. Half the fat in your body is stored directly beneath the skin. I can pinch the thickness of your skin and the upper back in the thigh for men, upper arm in the waistline for women, I can fairly actually tell you how much body fat you have.

Women shouldn’t carry more than 20%; men no more than 15%. If you’re carrying more than that, you tend to be more prone to everything from colds and flu to cancer and by the way for you researchers this is Sloan’s formula that I’m using for estimating body-fat.

I’ll be happy to stay around at the end of the day and do body fat percentages for anybody who wants to have that done. The quickest way I know to clear the room.

And if you don’t have a skin fold caliper keep track of your body shape. If you’re losing inches but you’re not losing pounds, what are you losing? Fat. And that’s a good thing. So keep track of your shape.

For men, you should at least keep track of your waistline. If you’re dropping body fat, there’s almost always a drop in the waistline measurement. For women, it’s the hip measurement. Keep track of your hip measurement. I found if you’re dropping body fat, you almost always are dropping the hip measurement.

So your body’s giving you the information you need to motivate you but you have to know how to read your body. This is stuff we should have taught you back in grade school and we didn’t — a major price for it as a nation.

And finally, don’t forget to fit exercise into your busy schedule. The basic things you want to remember for doing that.

Number one. I want you to work out everyday. I want you to work out first thing in the morning. Every day first thing in the morning, 20 minutes or less and then work against resistance.

But here are the motivational principles that say… I want you to define what fitness is. Until you gain agreement about what you’re trying to do, you’re in deep trouble.

Two, then I want you to measure fitness. Measuring fitness is a way of identifying what the need is. Focusing on the need is the thing that motivates you to do it and take it seriously.

And three, I want you to reward physical fitness. Isn’t that important to get recognition for doing it?

I found one of the most effective reward tools I’ve ever found in physical fitness is the belief that you’re intrinsically doing something that will impact your health. It is the most powerful reason for exercise.

But beyond that here’s what comes in number two. A little sticker stars and paper certificates. Some of the top executives in state of Oregon I’ve had rearranging or schedule to get their next sticker star. This stuff works, okay.

So define fitness, measure fitness, and reward fitness.

Thank you.

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