Unfit dads

With the Olympics around the corner in London 2012, we wondered how many of us are unfit dads!

A new study has found that 60 per cent of British dads are out of shape putting them at greater risk of heart disease as well as affecting their family relationships. The findings also show that the average dad puts on 1.6 stone (10.43 kg) after becoming a father.

The research – commissioned by Benenden Healthcare Society and the Men’s Health Forum charity – found dads feeling fed up, too tired to play with their children or snapping at them as common reactions to feeling overworked and undernourished.

Finishing the family’s left over food, ordering takeaways at work and hours spent lazing in ‘dad’s chair’ are just some of the habits that have lead one in five fathers to suffer a health scare.

The study of 2,000 dads aged 18-60 found 40 per cent aren’t able to pull their weight in the family home because they are too exhausted as a result of work

42 per cent have used energy drinks to keep them going through the day but an exhausted fifth have fallen asleep while in the middle of reading to their children.

One in five dads has texted someone they knew was in the same house to avoid getting out of their seat, with the same proportion regularly finding themselves breathless after running up the stairs.

And more than a quarter sneak in naps during weekdays in order to cope – one in twenty have even snoozed while on the toilet at work.

Paul Keenan, External Affairs Manager at the health and wellbeing mutual, Benenden Healthcare Society, said: “The modern lifestyle is a hectic one and this study clearly shows the impact this is having on fatherhood.

“ We discover that the modern dad’s health is suffering under the strain from diverging pressures such as work and family life.

“As a result, dads are taking shortcuts with their diets – leading to increased weight, a more sedentary lifestyle and eventually running the risk of health scares.

Interestingly the research found that the cardiac arrest suffered by top footballer Fabrice Muamba delivered a strong reality check for one in three fathers, alerting them to the need to take their own health more seriously

What the kids say

The study also quizzed 500 young adults (aged 18-30) on their dad’s health – with three in ten having cause to suspect their dad might be suffering from a more serious health issue.

A concerned 60 per cent say their dad isn’t fit or very healthy and half of young adults feel their dad is overweight. A third of young adults think their dad is stubborn and refuses to deal with health issues unless pushed.

Heart Disease

Weight gain, a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and long working hours are risk factors for heart disease. Stress can also lead to other risk factors like smoking, hazardous drinking and overeating. Men are at far greater risk of heart disease than women, especially at a younger age. Heart disease is the most common cause of death – and premature death – for men in the UK. In the UK, 20,850 men a year die from heart disease before the age of 75 years compared to 7,408 women. (figures from The Men's Health Forum)

Benenden and Men's Health Forum recommend that fathers – and all men – pay more attention to their heart health by adopting healthier lifestyles, taking up invitations to the new free NHS Health Checks and seeking medical help if they have a health worry.

Are you at risk?

The research put together the following list of the most common warning signs of fading health. If you are doing these you need to think about getting more active.

1. Got a takeaway at work
2. Had a nap at the weekend
3. Drunk alcohol on more than two weeknights
4. Snapped at the kids when I didn’t mean to
5. Finished food on another’s plate
6. Driven to shops when I should have walked
7. Consumed just tea or coffee all day
8. Had a nap on a weekday
9. Bought sweets for the kids so I can get some myself
10. Got out of breath running up the stairs
11. Text a family member who was in the house
12. Got fed up of family life because I was just too tired
13. Eaten more than one takeaway in a day
14. Tried and failed to touch my toes
15. Had to gear myself up to face family life after work
16. Hidden snacks/takeaway cartons from partner
17. Smoked without partner’s knowledge
18. Napped on the way to work
19. Bought kids games and dvd’s to occupy them and let me rest
20. Had a takeaway number on speed dial

The Men's Health Forum is a charity that provides an independent and authoritative voice for male health in England and Wales and tackles the issues and inequalities affecting the health and well-being of men and boys.

They are urging men to get a free NHS Health Check, which looks at your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. It’s available to anyone aged 40 to 74 who isn’t already diagnosed with one of these conditions, or taking medication for high blood pressure or cholesterol. Contact your GP to find out more.

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