Healthy Step 4


Just how strong are you, anyway?

As an aging Orthopedic Surgeon I have seen my share of strong and weak people. From power lifters to people too weak to get out of a chair. The amount of muscle you power yourself around with has to do with your ability to control your weight. As you get older you get weaker unless you lift weights or do very physical work or climb rock walls, etc. You may lose one or two pounds of muscle a year if you sit all day and sleep all night. Since muscle uses up energy just by itself, the less muscle you have the fewer calories you burn in a day. Losing weight is so much easier when you are younger than when you are older because of the muscle loss that comes with aging. That is also the reason that people gain back the weight after completing a diet – because they did not improve their strength. This is one of the main reasons that Americans are getting fat – they are getting weak.

For example – you show me a person who has a big belly and I’ll show you someone who can not do a sit-up. Those two things go together. The fat accumulates in the mesentery, deep within the abdomen and pushes out against the stomach muscles which lengthens them. They become elongated and ineffective in doing a sit-up. How many pot bellies are there out there? Sixty percent of 200 million adults is about 120 million people that may not be able to do a sit-up. Hard to believe isn’t it? How many of the 200 million can do a pull-up? A push-up? Ok, pull-ups are rarely done by adults but our supposedly weak President Obama reportedly can do 3.
At the end of this health step there will be a report you can fill out on how strong you are. This could be submitted with a job application and CV to help you get a leg up on other applicants.

The only way to demonstrate these strength tests is with videos. We have broken these up into a series, so you can watch and then do the tests on your own. I did this to my classmates at my 50th high school reunion several years ago. There were some balance, strength and stiff hip issues that were unknown before the test. As we get older, we get weaker and lose our balance. The changes are slow and not appreciated until you actually test yourself. So, here we go with the first video.

The video shows some standing balance work and leg strength. Most people should be able to walk toe to heel with their eyes open but have trouble with their eyes closed. As far as eyes closed, standing on one leg, 5 seconds isn’t very good. With practice 15 to 20 seconds is doable for the elderly. We’ll continue with some balance with the eyes closed up on the toes. I flunk this part.

If you have trouble feeling the two tines of a fork with the pads of your fingers, you may have a problem with the nerves that go to your fingers. These nerves can be pinched around the wrist which usually causes numbness in the thumb and index and long fingers and sometimes half of the ring finger. This is the so called “carpal tunnel syndrome”. Other numbness can involve the other side of the hand as in the small and half of the ring finger. This is usually due to pinching of the nerve at the “crazy bone” at the elbow. If the numbness involves all the fingers then it can be from such problems as neuritis of diabetes, damage from alcohol and related vitamin deficiency and hundreds of other causes. Most peripheral nerve abnormalities are diabetic in origin.


We will move on to the floor tests. Note that in this example I can not do a full straight leg raise because my hamstrings are tight. This is another aging problem that comes from too much sitting and not enough stretching of the hamstrings as we go through into old age. Frogging of the hip is an excellent early indicator of arthritic changes in the hip sockets. The Thindex sit-ups are the star of this show. If you are unable to do a sit – up even with your arms in front of you, then you have serious weakness issues that need to shock you into making a time commitment for the rest of your life to get yourself stronger as well as thinner. You can go to our blog on “why is my belly so big” and find out why it is so important to get rid of this large glob of fat in the tummy that takes on a life of its own, secreting hormones and inflammatory chemicals that ruin your blood vessels that are so vital for your survival .

And then finally the pull-ups which mostly skinny guys like me can do. I also like them because women have a tough time doing pull-ups and I like it when guys have an advantage at something, unlike playing golf where the women’s tees are up 100 yards from the men’s tees. You can go to the site “pull your own weight” where they sell some straps to help get started towards doing a pull-up. Here is a shot of Obama doing his pull – ups.

Obama pull ups


There are no grades for this test you have just watched and hopefully done. No one is going to tell you that you are weak and losing balance and have some numb fingers and can not do a sit-up. It is your body and only you are responsible for the way it is now and the way it will be in the future.

How do you improve in this area? First, you have to look at what you have done for fittness in the past year. Your body will adjust itself downward or upward depending on what you make it do. If you sit all the time, your body will soften to the point where all it can do is sit. If you do hard physical work all day and never sit – chances are you are pretty fit. If you are more inert and over 40 years of age then you might need a check up from your doctor before trying to get into better shape. High blood pressure, BMI over 30, cigarette habit, and thindex below zero are red flags for a potential catastrophe if you jump into a serious exercise program.

So from this # 4 health step you should have an idea of how strong you are and what kind of physical shape you are in. The stronger you are and the faster you can move around the track, the easier it will be for you to lose the weight and keep it off. That is the goal of this website: to reverse the aging changes by diet and exercise, earning you the best life possible from here on.

In the next health step there will be a continuation of what exercises you can do throughout the day to protect the valuable muscles that you will need when you grow old. Oh, I see Casey is coming over with something to say.

Joe – you are on health step # 4 already and I do not see anything about me yet. Am I getting pushed to the side here? You call me an “associate” and I thought that was good, but I think I am being overlooked here. I’m changing the flowers in the vase every day and parade around in my “eco-dog” outfit, but I want to be in on the exercise stuff, too. After all, I got you in shape didn’t I? Who trained you up to 8 minute miles? Me.

Casey – you truly are the best dog I have had, lately. People visiting the website will like the roses and your cleaning up roadside trash but a doctor you aren’t. Lose the stethescope or you are off the team. Show a little respect for the visitors.

It is demeaning when you dress me down like that in front of the visitors. They are going to think you are bad dog owner and will go to a website that is run by a nice person who knows how to treat a good dog.
OK – that does it. You are on “time out” for a week. Go to your pillow and not a peep out of you.

Call my lawyer for me. I have no fingers. He specializes in dog abuse.



Here is the strength data suitable for a job application. Most of this data cannot be asked of a job applicant by an employer but can be volunteered by the applicant.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. physical capacity for job application




Phone where you can be reached_________________

Job of interest_______________________________________________________________


My health is excellent____good____fair_____


My thindex is (VO2max less BMI) ______  (higher is better)  BMI_____   VO2max_______


Weight______  Height______  Waist circumference in inches_____Can lift and carry____lbs


Can walk or run a mile in______minutes


Can go up ____flights of stairs without stopping


Can do ____sit-ups     Can do ____push-ups

Hobbies, recreation, ___________________________________________________________

Best job I ever had_____________________________________________________________

Special skills I have____________________________________________________________




Signature of applicant_________________________


additional notes:



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Lodge Overview

Welcome to Thindex – your guide to better health and life.

This website is a little off–the–wall (like all of us, maybe). I'm not trying to sell you anything, and I'm not trying to collect information about you.

The purpose of this website is simply to help you improve your health and, ultimately, the quality of your life and eventual destiny.

That's it. No hidden agenda.

This website is my push to get you to change So, come on into the lodge and feel free to browse around for a bit. I hope that you find the information helpful.

Joseph R. McFarland MD

What you can find in the Lodge:
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Where do I start?

Thindex is an easy going website, focusing on your health improvement. Getting healthier isn't complicated or expensive. If you do it without outside help you will have a much better chance for permanent lifetime success.

  1. step one: Click on "Calculate my thindex". Enter the data requested. You will need an accurate time that it takes for you to walk or run a mile to get the complete data for your thindex. The dot between the green and red lines is where you fit in to your age group. Hanging close to the green line is where you want to be. Below zero is not good unless you are very old. Most Americans will be below zero.
  2. Step two: Use the information from Step one to make a decision about improving your health and destiny from this moment on.
  3. Step three: Cruise around the website and check a few of my blogs, the videos, the guest lecturers, pollution and diet news. Also check the rose of the day and Casey's Corner for kids.
  4. Step four: You can use this site and the 9 health steps to move yourself towards better health. Or you can do your own thing and check your progress with our calculator.
This site is put together by Joseph McFarland MD. As an Orthopedic Surgeon, I have seen some nasty wounds over the last 40 years. I have never seen wounds as bad as what we Americans are doing to ourselves by eating unhealthy foods and not getting nearly enough exercise. These wounds can heal if you reverse the cause. The information you need is all here and it is all free.

Calculate my Thindex

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Health Steps: There are 9 progressive health steps that ease you slowly towards better health.


Blogs: A variety of health topics


Guest speakers: Talks by a variety of diet experts


Recommended reading: Diet and exercise books in which we believe.


Rose of the day: Daily rose with comments that you can mail to friends or enemies, telling them how you are doing.


Casey's corner: Pollution and general advice for young kids.


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Why pick on soda pop as the first thing to eliminate as you go through the health steps?

Look up Sylvia Booth Hubbard – soda. She lists an even longer list of soda pop related problems. "Thirteen new ways colas ruin your health" (protected)

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Potatoes are a good starch source but when overheated above boiling produce acrylamide , a known carcinogen. These products are oversalted and some still contain trans fats which cause arteriosclerosis.