Despite his reputation as a model of good behavior, is it possible that Santa Claus is setting a bad example?
After all, he engages in some risky behavior – racing from rooftop to rooftop in an open sleigh, apparently without a seatbelt. And, every December 24, he stays out all night, zips around the world, sneaking in and out of homes while consuming millions of cookies-and-milk snacks.
Given his seemingly reckless behavior and his penchant for high-fat, high-sugar treats, should we be worried about Santa’s health?
Still strong at 550
“Well, by all accounts, he is over 550 years old and still very active, so maybe there’s more to his health habits than immediately meets the eye,” said Dr. Jennifer Caudle, an osteopathic physician with Rowan Family Medicine in Sewell and an assistant professor at Rowan’s School of Osteopathic Medicine.
She noted that Santa most likely sticks to an exercise program throughout the year so that he can remain “lively and quick” at Christmas time.
“Carrying all those toys requires strong bones and muscles, which also helps prevent falls, especially in older individuals, like Santa,” she said.
Naughty and Nice
Dr. Caudle also observed an important change that removed one of Santa’s long-held habits from the “naughty” list.
“Years ago, images of Santa often showed him smoking a pipe, but he seems to have kicked that habit,” Dr. Caudle said. “Tobacco use is still the single most preventable cause of death and disease in America. No matter how long an individual smokes, quitting has both immediate and long-term health benefits.”
Dr. Caudle pointed out that Santa’s sweet tooth makes his obvious girth a cause for concern.
“Even though he appears to have slimmed down a bit, Santa’s body mass index still seems to be quite high,” she said, noting that obesity is a leading cause of diabetes and heart disease. “Those sugary snacks he enjoys at each stop on Christmas Eve can contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Children can help Santa stay healthy by leaving healthier choices, like carrot sticks or apple slices with peanut butter. These are good snacks for parents and children to share, too.”
Santa’s Healthy Lifestyle
Although his activities during the rest of the year remain shrouded in mystery, Dr. Caudle speculated that Santa’s overall lifestyle likely enhances his well-being.
“By all accounts, Santa and Mrs. Claus have been married for a long time, and some studies have indicated that married couples enjoy several health benefits, including being more likely to follow their health care provider’s advice,” Dr. Caudle said.
Acknowledging that pets aren’t for everyone, Dr. Caudle noted that Santa’s reindeer also contribute to his overall health.
“According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having pets can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which are important for heart health,” she said. “Plus, a pet often encourages healthy exercise, like walking, and can open the door to opportunities for social interaction with other pet owners.”
Considering his age and the fact that he still manages to fly around the world with millions of stopovers in a single night, Dr. Caudle concedes that Santa is probably in pretty good health.
“There may be some magic involved, but it is apparent that Santa will have no trouble filling Christmas wishes this year and for many more years to come.”
Source: Rowan University offers bachelor’s through doctoral programs to 17,360 students through its campuses in Glassboro, Camden and Stratford, New Jersey.
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