Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Health Screening Surprises

I'm lucky enough to work for an employer which appears to take staff health and well-being very seriously. So much so, they have just launched a program whereby if we show up for a free screening and jump through some other healthy hoops, they will give us a very small bonus in our pay checks.

Well, there's nothing I like better than free money, even if I'll be lucky to take home an extra $25 after Uncle Sam grabs his share. So I dutifully presented myself this morning, sans breakfast, to be assessed for BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure and some other bits and pieces.

Goodness, how very revealing. At 129 pounds and 5 foot 3 inches, my Body Mass Index is clearly fine and I could probably gain at least 10 pounds before anyone would raise their eyebrows. However, the dastardly fat calipers disagreed and were audacious enough to pronounce me "borderline overweight". The cheek of it! Either taking thigh measurements through my clothes introduces a significant margin of error, or I need to get my flabby stomach under control. Either way, it's no wonder many women suffer from poor body image if they spend 5 hours a week exercising yet still get this kind of pronouncement from their health care provider.

At this point I should mention my other scores were pretty good, so last Fall's 391 miles of running have clearly benefited me somewhat. The only exception to the happy data was my reading for HDL ("good") cholesterol which was woefully low. I was somewhat naughty and let the nurse get part way through her lecture on the importance of exercise before I informed her that I had been in training for a marathon until 12 days ago. At that point she decided genetic factors might be playing a part. I told her that when I've run 26 miles, if my HDL level is still low, then we can talk. Until then, just give me a healthy knee and I'll exercise until the cows come home.

I guess what bothers me about screenings like this are, they tend to catch the 'low hanging fruit' of people who are fairly active anyway. Folks who are really overweight or totally out of shape, are unlikely to submit willingly to the caliper test, especially in their own workplace. And the old rhetoric about the need for regular exercise tends to fall on deaf ears amongst those of us who honestly feel we're going above and beyond.

But there's always room for improvement, right? Next time I cross a finish line, I'd like to be carrying just a little less flab around my middle. As an added incentive, I'm posting the shameful evidence here as a public reminder that Runner's Tum is not yet a recognized sports injury.

Photo thanks: Sanja Gjenero, Mark Nelson.


  1. Sorry to hear your screening turned into more than you bargained for. (At least you get a bonus in your next check, right?) The good news is that one of the best ways to raise your HDL you're already doing: exercise!

  2. Wow, I would love to try something like this. Cool place to work! This post was very interesting! And you actually sounds pretty healthy to me. :)

  3. It is so very sad that someone like you ( who obviously does work very hard to be in the shape that you are in) is told you need to do more. It's true! Why should I even bother trying again - when I know I will never even be close to where you are at - and then to still be told I have more to go??

    I am one of those (very) overweight and out of shape - who did get on the scale at work and is trying so hard - but I have tried so hard my whole life and have always failed. What is worse - I lose 20 and gain 30, I lose the 30 and gain 40 - it is a viscous cycle that none of us like - but due to health problems (that would probably be non existent if I was healthy) I struggle like the dickens to lose this weight.

    You inspired me this morning.
    Thank you!

  4. Oh for goodness sake--if that picture is any indication you look in GREAT shape!

    Sounds like the cholesterol thing may be genetic, but the good thing about trying to raise "good" levels is that eating more healthy fats like olive oil can help. My "good" cholesterol was much lower when I was on a low-fat diet; now that I eat a lot of yummy healthy fats it's gone up to levels that totally impress my doctor.

  5. Valerie, thanks for visiting, and please do hang in there. The message I took away from this 'screening' is that with the exception of Olympic athletes, there are probably little bits and pieces that we can all improve on.
    Personally I think I may have been under the illusion that just because I can trot a long way, I must be in ideal shape, and that's actually far from the truth.
    But I took comfort on Saturday when out for a morning bike ride and I passed all the people in line at the Burger King drive-through!

  6. Crabby, so, you're telling me I can feel good about olive oil and maybe avocados? Yum yum, I love you!

  7. You're right about who volunteers for these assessments. If you want, you could take the test at

    I have a whole list of things to work on!

  8. I want to do an internal age health screening! I'm so curious :)

  9. I think you look great!

    I started taking fish oil capsules last year to raise my good cholesterol and have been pleased with the results.

    My husband, who is a runner, has been having knee pain and has been able to work out on an elliptical machine at work without any knee pain. I hope your knee recovers soon!


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