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How to vanquish the dreaded 'Dad Bod'

Posted July 27

It's not just women who retain weight after childbirth. Fathers, too, can put on pounds, particularly around the stomach and abdomen, and the "Dad Bod" physique can portend all sorts of health woes, including heart disease and diabetes.

Virginia physician Ryan Smith, writing in The Crozet Gazette, said the term "Dad Bod" emerged in 2015 after a Clemson University blogger described it as "the balance between a beer gut and working out."

"This marked just the latest trend for the male physique and was intended to characterize a 'softly round' appearance," Smith wrote.

Think Winnie the Pooh, if he took up running.

But adorable as the Dad Bod might be, it's a dangerous health trend, Smith warns. He cited the results of a 2015 Northwestern University study that analyzed the bodies of more than 10,000 men before and after they became dads.

"They found that fatherhood changed the health behaviors of men, which were generally not for the better, and in turn BMI rose," Smith wrote.

BMI, or body mass index, is a height-to-weight measure of body fat; higher BMIs have been linked to a greater risk of early death as well as non-fatal conditions.

"As BMI (and waist circumference) rises, so do the risks of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, low testosterone, erectile dysfunction, arthritis, cancer, sleep apnea and reproductive problems, to name a few. Extra fat in the waist area is actually a greater risk for heart disease than fat in other parts of the body such as the hips," Smith wrote.

If you worry that you (or someone you love) might have a Dad Bod, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer an online calculator to help determine your BMI.

If yours is between 25 and 30, you qualify, and you have lots of company: some 27.8 million American men, which is 37 percent of men between the ages of 20 and 54, according to The Washington Post.

To fix the problem, get moving, Smith says, calling exercise "the greatest anti-aging intervention on the planet." He concurs with the CDC, which recommends activities such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, jumping rope and playing with children.

In doing so, you can not only vanquish the Dad Bod, but also help keep your children fit and healthy.

Canadian physician and author Dr. Yoni Freedhoff says if parents want their children to play outside, they should play with them.

"Kids are consumers of time just like adults. They'll choose to spend their free time with them doing whatever they find the most fun. When we were kids that was invariably heading outside to play. Not so much now," Freedhoff wrote on his blog "Weighty Matters."

"But for young kids at least, there is still one thing that trumps all others in terms of what kids will choose to do with their time, and that is to spend it with you."

Freedhoff gives suggestions of how parents can exercise with their children. Among them: hike, bike, shoot basketball, train together for a road race or triathlon, start a vegetable garden, build a tree house, or just jump through puddles. "There is no shortage of activities your kids will love to do with you," he said, adding, "Remember that every day that goes by, your influence on your children diminishes. Take advantage of the time you've got and teach them that a normal family life is an active one."

By the way, this works for Mom Bods, too.

EMAIL: jgraham@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: @grahamtoday

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