They want things to go swimmingly

  (Reprinted from Feb. 12, 2009)

  We’re in the midst of another get-healthy craze.
  At least that’s what I keep hearing. Apparently, though, the members of my doughnut-munching, burger-lunching, tortilla chip-crunching sportswriting posse have failed to hear the news. Speaking of the news, did you ever notice how the televised version of it never has any trouble finding overweight, out-of-shape folks to profile for stories on our unhealthy lifestyles?
  That tells me the get-healthy craze is failing miserably.
  Evidently a lot of people live by the slogan found on a T-shirt I own: I’m in shape — round is a shape. Would I like to be more fit? Of course, but I’d also like to be younger, richer and better looking, too, and those aren’t happening for me, either.

  Dietary alterations are often recommended for those of us seeking reliable weight-reduction methods, but I always get confused because of all the conflicting reports. Is bacon good for me this week or bad? What about coffee, eggs and starches? Will too much red meat kill me prematurely?
  I’ll tell you what’ll shorten all of our lives: stress, the kind brought on by not knowing what to do about our level of bacon, coffee, egg and starch consumption. Leave us alone already and let our nerves slowly eat away at our insides as prices climb, wages fall and too many of us are on the outside looking in.
  But that’ll never happen. No, we’ll always receive advice on what to do to make our lives healthier. The latest for me was an e-mail from a lady at a place called BatterUp Productions in Colorado Springs, Colo.
  Surprisingly, the organization has nothing to do with baseball. Rather, it sent me information that said how swimming could cut men’s risk of dying in half. This was great news, assuming I can find some swim trunks that still fit.
  Even I can’t deny the benefits that can be derived from swimming — why, if you’re talented enough, it can help you land gold medals, endorse products and have easier access to under-the-counter drugs.
  (Let me say right here that I’m not recommending that young people engage in such a thing, unless they truly believe in the product they’re asked to endorse.)
  What the BatterUp report — which had been previously published in the International Journal of Aquatic Education and Research and was based upon research performed at the University of South Carolina — indicated was that men who swim regularly reduce their risk of dying by about 50 percent compared to runners, walkers and sedentary males. The risk is slightly higher, however, for men who immediately sink to the bottom of the pool.
  Dr. Steven Blair, who headed up the study done at South Carolina, said in the e-mail I received that such things as age, body mass index, smoking status, alcohol intake, hypertension, other medical factors and family history were all taken into account during the research phase. After all the data was gathered, dissected, analyzed and categorized, Dr. Blair reached the following conclusion: Men who swim for exercise have a better survival rate than their sedentary peers.
  Wow, who would have guessed? But those were the doctor’s actual words, as reported in the IJAER. He said the findings were for a group totaling more than 40,000 men, aged 20-90.
  That’s a pretty wide age range. Most of the 90-year-old men I know — who am I kidding, most of the 40-year-old men — get winded from listening to the radio. Tying shoes amounts to an exercise regimen for these guys, so how on earth is anyone going to convince them to do something as strenuous as climb into a pool?
  Using bikini-clad women as lifeguards may help, although that could create more problems, especially for the 70-plus crowd, whose hearts might not be up for it. Better for those seasoned citizens to freestyle 30 or 40 laps with a weighted belt tied around their waists instead.
  I’m poking fun at the whole swimming-is-healthy bit, but we all know it’s considered the ideal way to burn calories. (OK, the second-best way, but, remember, this is a family newspaper.)
  It’s not shocking that swimming is superior to running or walking, simply because more body parts are put into motion. And, has been documented numerous times, there’s less physical wear and tear inflicted on the body in water-based exercises, particularly if you leave out the exercise part and simply float around on an inflatable raft.
  Hey, there’s some exercise for you: blowing up that inflatable raft. It’s a great workout for your lungs, at least until you become light-headed and pass out.
  What I find amusing about all this is that news on an activity — I’m talking swimming here, not raft-inflating — that’s pretty much been accepted as healthy for many years is suddenly looked upon as an informational breakthrough in 2009. Then I noticed one of the organizations that helped fund the South Carolina research: the National Swimming Pool Foundation.
  Can you say “self-serving?” I thought you could. Having a pool foundation promoting swimming is akin to having an asphalt supplier touting the need for new roads.
  All of this information is making my head spin. Maybe I’ll take Dr. Blair’s advice and jump in the water one of these days, but first I need to relax a while and collect my thoughts.
  And I think I’ll do it over an Egg McMuffin.