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Old 04-06-2012, 10:43 PM   #1
Dan Ross
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Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

I recently was diagnosed with slight wear on two of my cervical vertebrae.
My only way to account for this damage has been 17 years of aikido, as I have not suffered any other traumatic insults to my neck.

Most of the time I have practiced aikido I have been technically obese (~33% body fat), putting me at about 246#. Coupled with my height, 6'1", I have to wonder if I was at particular risk for injury. None of my fellow aikidoka who have practiced as much have reported any issues. (Nota bene: none of them are obese.)

We have practiced on standard 2" blue mats, with no other shock absorbing elements.

And so I am bringing this issue to the table: Ought obese students be allowed to practice given the elevated risk of serious injury? I think this ought to be considered, especially in regards to break falls.
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Old 04-07-2012, 12:14 AM   #2
Aikibu
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Dan Ross wrote: View Post
I recently was diagnosed with slight wear on two of my cervical vertebrae.
My only way to account for this damage has been 17 years of aikido, as I have not suffered any other traumatic insults to my neck.

Most of the time I have practiced aikido I have been technically obese (~33% body fat), putting me at about 246#. Coupled with my height, 6'1", I have to wonder if I was at particular risk for injury. None of my fellow aikidoka who have practiced as much have reported any issues. (Nota bene: none of them are obese.)

We have practiced on standard 2" blue mats, with no other shock absorbing elements.

And so I am bringing this issue to the table: Ought obese students be allowed to practice given the elevated risk of serious injury? I think this ought to be considered, especially in regards to break falls.
I am a big guy too. All I can say is I am careful with who my nage is....99% of my injuries over the years have been the result of sloppy/poorly executed technique...and yes size has allot to do with that...Most folks either try too hard (He's a big guy he can take it) or get a little intimidated and don't follow through properly. I no longer do break falls at too many seminars for this reason until I see the strange Nage in action.

My weight however is on me... If I don't get lean soon then my Aikido "career" WILL be cut short...That is just the laws of physics on the human body my friend.

William Hazen
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Old 04-07-2012, 01:25 AM   #3
Henrypsim
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Dan Ross wrote: View Post
I recently was diagnosed with slight wear on two of my cervical vertebrae.
My only way to account for this damage has been 17 years of aikido, as I have not suffered any other traumatic insults to my neck.

Most of the time I have practiced aikido I have been technically obese (~33% body fat), putting me at about 246#. Coupled with my height, 6'1", I have to wonder if I was at particular risk for injury. None of my fellow aikidoka who have practiced as much have reported any issues. (Nota bene: none of them are obese.)

We have practiced on standard 2" blue mats, with no other shock absorbing elements.

And so I am bringing this issue to the table: Ought obese students be allowed to practice given the elevated risk of serious injury? I think this ought to be considered, especially in regards to break falls.
There is an African American sensei (forgot his name) who devised a falling technique to replace break falls. I have seen it being done and even try to learn it. My daughter learned it too but somehow no one remembers the Sensei's name. (shame). If someone knows to whom I am referring to, please assist. In the meantime, I will do some research. I think the Sensei had a similar problem with his back and hence devised the method. He has video out on that too. Perhaps that would help you now and also when you get more "mature" (old).
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Old 04-07-2012, 01:53 AM   #4
philipsmith
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

I think we need to be carefu lwith the term obese.
I've been technically obese for many years (BMI 35) but with a body fat of between 26-28% (still high but not disasterous) - all of my injuries came when I was young, lean and fit.

I still take ukeme after 40 years training and this has no effect on my body other than to loosen up stiff joints.
Recently I also looked at the factors involved in injury in Aikido for a masters project and found the only correlation was number of training sessions per week (more than 4 significantly increases the risk)
So I would say "obese" aikidoka have two chooses - develop better ukeme or get leaner
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Old 04-07-2012, 02:11 AM   #5
PeterR
 
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

OK skinny guy talking but my heaviest student weighed a whopping 165 Kg at one point and a lot of thought and consultation went into what he could and could not do.

It is a simple fact of Aikido practice that most fitness benefit is actually gained through ukemi - not so much in going down but getting back up.

Large mass and speed do not mix - no matter how thick the tatami is. Also with bulk there is a certain lack of agility - safe forward roles were beyond him.

We insisted that if ukemi was called for he needed to go down. The forward role could be substituted for a turn and back breakfall. I left it to the student to decide how to lessen the impact here but he definitely got his workout in getting back up.

If physically there is something you can not do in Aikido (not just because of obesity) it is important that you try and find a way to compensate rather than just avoid,

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 04-07-2012, 04:08 AM   #6
Hanna B
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Dan Ross wrote: View Post
I recently was diagnosed with slight wear on two of my cervical vertebrae.
My only way to account for this damage has been 17 years of aikido, as I have not suffered any other traumatic insults to my neck.

Most of the time I have practiced aikido I have been technically obese (~33% body fat), putting me at about 246#. Coupled with my height, 6'1", I have to wonder if I was at particular risk for injury. None of my fellow aikidoka who have practiced as much have reported any issues. (Nota bene: none of them are obese.)

We have practiced on standard 2" blue mats, with no other shock absorbing elements.

And so I am bringing this issue to the table: Ought obese students be allowed to practice given the elevated risk of serious injury? I think this ought to be considered, especially in regards to break falls.
Of what consequense is this "slight wear"? Could the reason be genetic rather than impact?

I wouldn't think the cervical vertebrae would take extreme strain in breakfalls. In rolls, perhaps, if the belly prevents the person from actually making a nice round form - the back is straight, the neck overcompensates by bending more. Perhaps.
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Old 04-07-2012, 06:00 AM   #7
Alex Megann
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Henry Sim wrote: View Post
There is an African American sensei (forgot his name) who devised a falling technique to replace break falls. I have seen it being done and even try to learn it. My daughter learned it too but somehow no one remembers the Sensei's name. (shame). If someone knows to whom I am referring to, please assist. In the meantime, I will do some research. I think the Sensei had a similar problem with his back and hence devised the method. He has video out on that too. Perhaps that would help you now and also when you get more "mature" (old).
"African American"? If you are thinking of Donovan Waite, shame on you - he is one of us, from little ole England

Alex
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Old 04-07-2012, 06:10 AM   #8
Shadowfax
 
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Well... I'm 5' 7" and I outweigh you. Quite honestly I like breakfalls and have not found them to be particularly hard on my body. We don't take a lot of them where I train but I probably take them more often than other members of the dojo.

The only times I have experienced any real insult to my neck have been when I took a bad back roll. I don't think I am any more at risk for an injury than anyone else other than needing to be careful of my knees which were damaged in much younger and thinner years.
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Old 04-07-2012, 08:43 AM   #9
gregstec
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Personally, I don't think weight is the main concern with breakfalls - IMO, they can be bad for you at any weight and should be avoided when possible. Granted, I think they need to be learned for protection when needed in certain situations - but the constant hard practice of them will cause problems later in life; especially for those folks that like to throw themselves harder than what nage puts into the throw - I am sure you all have seen it at seminars; those in their 20s and 30s slamming themselves into the mat as hard as they can - 10 to 15 years later, they will be paying the price for that.

Greg
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Old 04-07-2012, 10:20 AM   #10
Henrypsim
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Alex Megann wrote: View Post
"African American"? If you are thinking of Donovan Waite, shame on you - he is one of us, from little ole England

Alex
YES, Sensei Donovan Waite. And yes shame on me for forgetting his name and thought he is one of us. In my previous dojo, one guy watched his video and learn from that. He succeeded but at a high cost. Since he did not have the opportunity to learn from Sensei Waite and you guys, his shoulder joint came slightly off the socket and became loose....pain.. Western doctor told him "such is life" and that all he can do is rest for at least 3 months or longer until the pain goes away.. I took him to a Chinese doctor who specializes in healing broken bones, twisted ankles etc. After a week of massage and external medicine, he was healed to normal. This Chinese doctor is also a martial artist from the old school. In the olden days in China, to learn martial arts, one has to first learn how to heal before he will be taught how to "kill". These doctors are very common in China, Hong Kong etc. even in U.S. Since Chinese are like flies, they are everywhere in the world (I am Chinese, so I can poke fun at myself) I will bet there are some of these guys in ole England. So much for my rambling. Anyway he succeeded and taught my daughter and she succeeded. Him and my daughter are more "natural" in Aikido than us. Many of us tried but we never could fall as well as the two of them. You guys are very fortunate to have Waite Sensei with you. Now that I am older, I can't take too many break falls anymore. However, because I learned how to fall, it actually saved me from major injury in real life more than once. Is it true that Waite sensei developed his technique because he has a bad back? Just nosy.
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Old 04-07-2012, 10:32 AM   #11
Basia Halliop
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Donovan Waite is great but I am confused by the idea of him not doing breakfalls. He does, and teaches, masses of them constantly. He does them well in such a way that they are as safe as possible, and teaches others to do them well, but that's the _opposite_ of not doing breakfalls...
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Old 04-07-2012, 10:47 AM   #12
Henrypsim
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Basia Halliop wrote: View Post
Donovan Waite is great but I am confused by the idea of him not doing breakfalls. He does, and teaches, masses of them constantly. He does them well in such a way that they are as safe as possible, and teaches others to do them well, but that's the _opposite_ of not doing breakfalls...
NO, I did not mean that he does not do break falls. I meant exactly as you said, he has a method of doing it in such a way that they are safe and avoids injury. Sorry for the confusion.
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Old 04-07-2012, 12:20 PM   #13
Alex Megann
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Basia Halliop wrote: View Post
Donovan Waite is great but I am confused by the idea of him not doing breakfalls. He does, and teaches, masses of them constantly. He does them well in such a way that they are as safe as possible, and teaches others to do them well, but that's the _opposite_ of not doing breakfalls...
I think of Waite Sensei as being quite athletic, which is impressive given his stature and build. I like the way he teaches ukemi within a logical system with the overall aim of minimising impact on the body, though I'm not sure how much his methods apply to an arbitrary body type.

I've seen him a couple of times over here and enjoyed his classes. I believe he is still based on the US East Coast. I recommend his ukemi DVD(s).

Alex
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Old 04-07-2012, 01:56 PM   #14
sakumeikan
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Dear All,
On the question of breakfalls check out the methodology of Chiba Sensei in respect taking ukemi.
These start off with body conditioning exercises then these exercises are translated into breakfalling.Cheers, Joe.
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Old 04-07-2012, 05:54 PM   #15
Dan Rubin
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Dan Ross wrote: View Post
Ought obese students be allowed to practice given the elevated risk of serious injury? I think this ought to be considered, especially in regards to break falls.
Perhaps another question should be:

"Ought any students be allowed to perform breakfalls for 17 years on standard 2" blue mats, with no other shock absorbing elements?"
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Old 04-07-2012, 11:49 PM   #16
Janet Rosen
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Most of us who live long enough will develop osteoarthritis aka degenerative joint disease. Some will have it some up first, or almost entirely, in thumbs, some in knees, some neck, some shoulder, etc - you get the idea. Some will have it show up in their 40s and some not be bothered into their 80s.
So I think if you have no other reason than "I've done aikido a long time" and "I have been overweight a long time" you may be barking up the wrong tree (or running down a blind alley) searching for a cause. It could easily and equally have been a long forgotten minor whiplash when you were a kid or a chronic posture issue accreting over decades or something we can't identify that set up those vertebrae as the initial spot for wear and tear.

Janet Rosen
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Old 04-08-2012, 09:42 AM   #17
Rob Watson
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Most of us who live long enough will develop osteoarthritis aka degenerative joint disease. Some will have it some up first, or almost entirely, in thumbs, some in knees, some neck, some shoulder, etc - you get the idea. Some will have it show up in their 40s and some not be bothered into their 80s.
So I think if you have no other reason than "I've done aikido a long time" and "I have been overweight a long time" you may be barking up the wrong tree (or running down a blind alley) searching for a cause. It could easily and equally have been a long forgotten minor whiplash when you were a kid or a chronic posture issue accreting over decades or something we can't identify that set up those vertebrae as the initial spot for wear and tear.
Funny thing that osteo ... I thought it was coming on in my hands last couple of years as sometimes the pain is quite severe but a recent x-ray for some thing unrelated brought out the comment from the radiologist "no signs of arthritis".

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

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Old 04-08-2012, 05:10 PM   #18
Hanna B
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Robert M Watson Jr wrote: View Post
Funny thing that osteo ... I thought it was coming on in my hands last couple of years as sometimes the pain is quite severe but a recent x-ray for some thing unrelated brought out the comment from the radiologist "no signs of arthritis".
Osteoartritis is weird. Pain doesn't show on X-ray. The degree of arthritis, as seen on X-ray, correlates poorly with the levels of pain. You could have a little arthritis, that doesn't show on X-ray (yet) and feel pain, or the X-ray might show quite a lot and you wouldn't feel a thing.

But for course the pain in your hands could be something else.
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Old 04-08-2012, 10:21 PM   #19
Janet Rosen
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Hanna Björk wrote: View Post
But for course the pain in your hands could be something else.
Yep - tendinitis, trigger finger, tendon sheath scarring thingies. Or soft tissue inflammatory changes that won't show on an xray.

Janet Rosen
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Old 04-09-2012, 10:00 AM   #20
G Sinclair
 
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

A properly performed breakfall should have the 'slapping' hand taking 95% of the impact. If your body is taking a jarring impact, your hand is hitting the mat too late.

Good luck, hope this helps!

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Old 04-09-2012, 10:45 AM   #21
Nicholas Eschenbruch
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Greg Sinclair wrote: View Post
A properly performed breakfall should have the 'slapping' hand taking 95% of the impact. If your body is taking a jarring impact, your hand is hitting the mat too late.

Good luck, hope this helps!
Hi there, could you expand? You mean in my case approx. 85kg of my 90+ would go through the hand?? And via the arm into the shoulder? I do practice "soft ukemi" from some throws, but have always seen the hand as a means of orienting my body to distribute impact evenly, rather than taking impact itself.

Last edited by Nicholas Eschenbruch : 04-09-2012 at 10:45 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 04-09-2012, 11:09 AM   #22
Alex Megann
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Nicholas Eschenbruch wrote: View Post
Hi there, could you expand? You mean in my case approx. 85kg of my 90+ would go through the hand?? And via the arm into the shoulder? I do practice "soft ukemi" from some throws, but have always seen the hand as a means of orienting my body to distribute impact evenly, rather than taking impact itself.
I would disagree with Greg's recommendation too. In my practice, the slap is an add-on, with the main part of the energy of the fall absorbed through the structure of the body as smoothly and softly as possible.

Training on a wooden floor in the past has taught me that slapping in ukemi is not something you should be in the habit of relying on...

Alex
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Old 04-09-2012, 12:25 PM   #23
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Nicholas Eschenbruch wrote: View Post
Hi there, could you expand? You mean in my case approx. 85kg of my 90+ would go through the hand?? And via the arm into the shoulder? I do practice "soft ukemi" from some throws, but have always seen the hand as a means of orienting my body to distribute impact evenly, rather than taking impact itself.
This method is completely counter intuitive and makes little sense until practiced, which makes explanation quite challenging, but let me give it a try:

We practice breakfalls as a very tight, small roll, with the first thing hitting the ground/mat/floor being the palm of your slapping hand. For some reason I cannot put into words, this takes all the impact out of the fall. Your palm may sting a bit but it is as if your body is lowered to mat with little to no impact. It is quite amazing. Been doing it for 20+ years and have not been injured, even under some devastating technique (hope I did not just jinx myself). I also have several deshi in thier 50's whom use this ukemi.

But don't take my word for it, try it out!

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Old 04-09-2012, 01:11 PM   #24
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

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Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Yep - tendinitis, trigger finger, tendon sheath scarring thingies. Or soft tissue inflammatory changes that won't show on an xray.
With my luck probably a bit of all that... don't think I can blame it on fat boy taking ukemi.

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

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Old 04-09-2012, 01:29 PM   #25
jackie adams
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Re: Should obese aikidoka do break falls?

Quote:
Dan Ross wrote: View Post
I recently was diagnosed with slight wear on two of my cervical vertebrae.
My only way to account for this damage has been 17 years of aikido, as I have not suffered any other traumatic insults to my neck.

Most of the time I have practiced aikido I have been technically obese (~33% body fat), putting me at about 246#. Coupled with my height, 6'1", I have to wonder if I was at particular risk for injury. None of my fellow aikidoka who have practiced as much have reported any issues. (Nota bene: none of them are obese.)

We have practiced on standard 2" blue mats, with no other shock absorbing elements.

And so I am bringing this issue to the table: Ought obese students be allowed to practice given the elevated risk of serious injury? I think this ought to be considered, especially in regards to break falls.
Mr. Ross, I recognize the risk you are taking with being so open with your health issues. I commend you.

Where you diagnosed by a physician with Cervical Spondylosis? Cervical degeneration isn't associated with weight. It is associated with age primarily. Arthritis, genetics and jobs with lots of neck movement are also is a factor of CS, but not weight, I would think. The cervical spine doesn't carry the bulk weight of the body's mass, such as the rest of the spine. A damaged disk in the lumbar spine is more likely due to weight. The knees are what really carries the bulk of the body's weight and suffers most for it when a person is obese. Weight may not be a top culprit with CS. Heart attack diabetes, blood pressure, thoracic and lumbar spine problems, joint problems, are but a few more serious things to worry about at 33% body fat .

As far as Aikido goes it seems to me, neck movement and age would be the primary areas of concerns if it isn't genetic deterioration. It would be interesting to know the areas of degeneration of and wear patterns on the vertebra, assuming the disk is depleted to a degree. Is the wear at the anterior or posterior part of the vertebra. Or it is some what evenly worn, or is there just bi- lateral wear. Include the condition of the disks, and if there are bone spurs. To identify if circular rotation of the head is a cause, or the head's frequent repetition of the head moving back and forth. The results would to indicate if Aikido played a role in CS, or other factors, or combined.

Warm -ups might be considered over ukemi as the cause. I use to do a neck warm ups by circling my head clock and counter clockwise and then rotating it side to side, and back and forth. Done 4 times a weak or more over the years could be mostly at fault for the wear and tear. I stopped that when I was told by my Chiropractor to do it another way that wasn't harmful. I have seen some people to stretch their neck pull down upon their head passing the natural flexion range of the neck. That isn't good on the neck disks when done habitually.

I know in the medical profession they started the anti-obese movement, it has been turning into a craze where fat is to blame for everything that is taking it over board. It is then natural to think weight has something do with increasing risk of injury on and off the mat. OTOH, I would hate to make an assumption and be wrong for it when fat wasn't the culprit. Don't over-look other things, like genetics, and other activities that can be the cause. Obesity is an issue, agreed. It does limit your actives and abilities, and puts you at risk for injury. There is nothing better than getting the proper knowledge. You don that by talking throughly and working with a doctor/specialist in this condition. You eliminate your assumptions. Losing the extra weight is an important and good health practice. Being at 33% body fat is something of a health concern, it puts you at risk for other more serious health conditions than slightly worn neck vertebra, and the cause has to be considered it may not be taking falls.

I wish you the best of health and longevity. Losing weight is a struggle, and takes effort and will power beyond assumptions. Once it is off, you will feel so much better, and less concerned about the risks of being over weight.
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