BRIAN PARR’S HEALTH AND FITNESS: Surviving a zombie apocalypse

  • Posted: Monday, June 17, 2013 8:12 a.m.

The film “World War Z” opens in theaters later this week. The movie is about a worldwide zombie pandemic that threatens to destroy all of humanity. Starring Brad Pitt, the film has all the makings of a summer blockbuster and will certainly have people talking about zombies. It may even prompt some to prepare for a zombie apocalypse.

To be sure, a zombie apocalypse is highly unlikely. Just in case, though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a very tongue-in-cheek website with instructions to help you prepare for a zombie invasion. The intention is that preparing for zombies also means that you will be prepared for more realistic natural and man-made disasters.

I would like to share some health and fitness-related steps you can take to help you survive a zombie attack as well as other more likely threats to your health. After all, you are far more likely to suffer a heart attack than a zombie attack, but it makes sense to prepare for both.

The first thing that is clear is that you need to be physically fit to escape zombies. While previous films depict zombies as moving slowly, “World War Z” suggests that they move much more quickly. Roads and other transportation infrastructure tends to get destroyed in zombie movies, so you may have to travel on foot and carry a heavy load of supplies, likely over long distances.

Building speed and endurance through prolonged aerobic exercise and high-intensity interval training can give you an advantage. Developing muscular strength through resistance training would certainly help, too. A comprehensive fitness program at a gym or at home can help you achieve these goals. Even going for a brisk walk every day will help.

What you eat now can also help you prepare for a zombie apocalypse. Both running away from attacking zombies and walking for days to a safer place requires that you have adequate stores of carbohydrate and fat. A high carbohydrate diet will increase your storage of muscle and liver glycogen, the primary fuels used for intense exercise so you will have more energy available to sprint and run.

Don’t overeat, though. Maintaining a healthy body weight is beneficial, too. The heavier you are, the more weight you have to carry in your escape, which is likely to slow you down.

Even though the possibility of a zombie apocalypse is remote, preparing now makes sense. Just as the CDC recommends that you be prepared for zombies in an effort to make sure you are ready for other more likely disaster scenarios, getting in shape to flee attacking zombies also increases your chances of surviving more probable health threats.

Regular aerobic and strength exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, and eating a healthy diet are the best ways by which you can reduce your risk of a host of health problems. The benefits of these healthy habits include a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers along with prevention and treatment of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. And these are exactly the type of risks you should be preparing for.

So, as you watch “World War Z” think about what you can be doing now to prepare for both zombie attack and more realistic threats to your health. Visit the CDC website to learn how to prepare for zombies as well as credible information about exercise, nutrition, and health. Then, get started on getting yourself in shape. A zombie apocalypse will probably come without much warning!

Brian Parr, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at USC Aiken where he teaches courses in exercise physiology, nutrition and health behavior. He is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and is an ACSM certified clinical exercise specialist; his research focuses on physical activity in weight management and the impact of the environment on activity and diet.

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