Spanning the Distance
We are a species of bridge builders. Since time out of mind, humans have engineered structures to surmount obstacles, attempting to thwart the physical forces and natural phenomena that perpetually threaten to destroy our bridges....our visions....our dreams.
Bridges hold a near and dear place to my heart. I will never forget excitedly competing in a 7th grade bridge building contest - Constructing a to-scale, bendy straw and popsicle stick suspension bridge rendered after the Verrazano. Fond memories linger of sitting around Grandpa’s kitchen table and his workbench, sketching bridges and other structures - learning algebra from the man who build the thing I tried so hard to re-create in middle school.
While I did not become a civil engineer following in the footsteps of my grandfather and a man I will forever idol, I am indeed a bridge builder. Through preventative and corrective exercises, improved kinesthesia, and the self-confidence gained through autonomous movement, exercise specialists build bridges – bridges between one’s current state and future goal; paths representing the process of living and doing experienced; the connector between the physical here and the ethereal now. The physical forces attempting to thwart individuals’ successful bridge construction differ on a case-to-case basis, as do the bridge types chosen to span the gap of goal completion.
First up, let's get right down to the basics - the fundamental principles of bridge engineering and different types of bridges.
BATS and the Basics
A force in physics relates to an external cause responsible for any change of a physical system. Tension, compression, torsion, resonance, and shear forces all affect bridge structures. A fine balance amongst these forces results in a durable bridge structure.
Dissipation and transfer allow for force attenuation and a balanced bridge state. Some designs allow forces to be spread out evenly over a greater area, while others move stress from an area of weakness to an area of strength.
The main difference amongst bridge types is span potential. BATS – not the furry creatures but beams, arches, trusses, suspension – attenuate and balance forces according to each projects’ necessities. Inadequate form for a given function – and an unbalanced state – can lead to buckling, snapping, and a fallen bridge.
But that’s enough about bridges...
Connecting the Blocks
Force, too, pertains to the ideas of energy, power, and intensity as they relate to the ever-important ideas of physical, psychological, and spiritual strength.
Through preventative and corrective exercises, improved kinesthesia, and the self-confidence gained through autonomous movement, exercise specialists build bridges – bridges between one’s current state and future goal; paths representing the process of living and doing experienced; the connector between the physical here and the ethereal now. The physical forces attempting to thwart individuals’ successful bridge construction differ on a case-to-case basis, as do the bridge types chosen to span the gap of goal completion.
Like torsion, resonance, and shear forces, ever day obstacles must operate cooperatively for success. Limits and boundaries – pushing oneself to think and work outside of one’s comfort zone in an effort to grow; Complexity and simplicity – moving as complex as human and then as simple as possible; and a multitude of other forces must align to achieve homeostasis and diminish entropy. Bridges between one’s present state and future goals can be built wherein the physical here and the ethereal now reach optimal flow.
Time is always under tension...Conquer your fears. The most rewarding things in my life have scared the crap out of me. What bridges are you building?
Have you ever asked yourself which is healthier - peanut butter M&M's or Nutella? How do you know which breakfast bar to take with you in the morning? Check out this quick label reading game the next time you wish to compare foods!
Over time, society has come to recognize an individual as being healthy or unhealthy based on his or her outward appearance of body weight. A person who appears to have a normal weight is obviously healthier than an obese individual, right? Well, not so fast. Often times, people who have what is considered normal weight can still have weight-related health issues. This has become known as the term, “normal weight obesity” and there are a few factors that can help determine if a person has NWO.
First, it is important to understand BMI. BMI stands for body mass index, which is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by their height in squared meters. Below, the diagram displays the different categories that BMI represents.
Being that it is a quick and easy way to determine a general weight status, it has been widely used the past few decades. However, there are a few flaws associated with this method. It does not take into account the added muscle composition that an athlete may have, nor does it take into consideration central adiposity (body fat around the waist). It is simply a ratio of weight to height. Another tool, measuring body fat percentage, is much more useful in determining a person’s level of risk for developing weight-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. That being said, doctors need to include body fat testing as part of health assessments and patient check-ups.
What exactly is normal weight obesity? It may sound confusing, but it is simply a person who has what is considered a “normal” BMI, but they have a high percentage of body fat making up their total body composition. A shocking 30 million Americans are said to have NWO (Today’sDietician). Body composition is made up of lean mass (muscle, organs, bone), fat mass, and water. Individuals with NWO usually appear to be in good shape and have no idea how high their body fat percentage is. A study published in the European Heart Journal, March of 2010, found that a group of subjects with the highest body fat percentage (greater than 23.1% in men and greater than 33.3% in women) had four times the amount of metabolic syndrome compared to the group of subjects with low body fat. The higher percentage group also had a higher prevalence of dyslipidemia, hypertension in men, and cardiovascular disease in women. Overall, the BMI number should not be the only deciding factor when it comes to weight status and more focus on body composition needs to be priority.
How can NWO be improved? The important factor to remember is that NWO individuals do not necessarily need to lower the number on the scale, they need to change what is making up the ratios of their total weight in pounds. The main step towards improving body composition is to implement more strength training into an exercise program. This will help to increase the lean muscle mass in the body as well as improve bone mineral density. Another way to lower body fat percentage is to eat a healthy diet with proper portion sizes in order to lessen the chance of storing extra calories not used for energy as fat. Lastly, re-check body composition no less than three to four weeks at a time as it takes at least that much time to lose one to two percent of body fat.
Check out the chart below. Do you know what your current BF% is?
The science involving the human body is constantly evolving. Despite the fact that BMI has been used for several decades to help determine weight status does not mean that it should remain the only standard forever. The more awareness normal weight obesity receives, the more people will be able to take a closer look at their health in order to improve body composition and long term quality of life. The scale weight is not the be-all, end-all.
That’s approximately what you get in your adult life. According to a report from the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy in the United States is 79 years old. Perhaps a little less. A little more if you’re lucky.
If we use worldwide life expectancy statistics, assume that your adult life starts at 18 years old, and round up slightly, we arrive at the number 25,000 – the number of times you get to open your eyes, face the day, and make decisions. What will you do with each one? Here are eight things you should never do in the morning if you want to start each one joyfully, meaningfully, and healthily.
1. Thinking negatively
Negative thinking has an immediate, destructive impact on your life, no matter the time of day. The moment you have a negative thought, it poorly impacts your self-esteem, hinders you from achieving your goals, makes you feel worse, and adds negative value to your life in some way.
Conversely, the science of positive thinking suggests that adding positive value to your life leads to increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, and improved life satisfaction.
Morning Action Tip: Check out what people call “gratitude lists” to turn your negatives into positives!
2. Leaving angry
Sometimes, we just wake up angry. Or maybe something happens upon waking between your walk from bedroom to the bathroom or the kitchen that sends you into a tailspin. According to a University of Virginia study, some negative moods can signal inadequate progress at a task and increase effort and attention in various contexts. Other studies suggest anger not only affects your ability to reach your goals, but can also affect your decision making abilities, sleep, skin health, and overall wellbeing.
Morning Action Tip: The next time you find yourself starting the day off angrily, try breathing deeply and repeating a positive thought mantra before moving into your next task.
3. Jumping straight into (other peoples') work
Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. If you start going through your smart phone or inbox first thing in the morning, you immediately wake up and start distracting yourself with everyone else's needs. According to the 2013 IDC Research Report ad other research, 80% of smartphone users check their phones within 15 minutes of waking up. This leads to reactive instead of proactive behaviors, granting you a round-trip ticket on a directionless train that thwarts any chance you had of going full steam ahead on your important projects of the morning.
Morning Action Tip: Work on something important for 30-45 minutes, and only then open your social media and email. If you can stand it, wait even longer.
4. Checking your bank account
Americans are paying with their health quite literally. Stress is America surveys suggest that nearly three quarters (72 percent) of adults report feeling stressed about money at least some of the time. Stressors have a major influence upon mood, our sense of well-being, behavior, and health.
Morning Action Tip: We’re not saying don’t check your finances. Just like when it comes to not checking your social media straight out of the sleep gate, work on something else important before checking your accounts. Your health will thank you.
5. Rushing through your routine
Flying through your morning routine gives your brain no time to decompress or prepare for the day. One of the best ways to avoid unproductive mornings is to prepare the night before. Don’t wait to pick choose your outfit, make your lunch, and see if your car needs gas. Establish a “pre-game” routine to avoid the extra stress of an unprepared morning.
Morning Action Tip: Make the next day’s to do list the night before, and take a morning “brain dump.” For five minutes, list all projects, to-dos, reminders and priorities on a piece of paper. Then, highlight the top three things on the list to deal with today, things that matter most to you.
6. Skipping Breakfast
This is sometimes the result of rushing through your morning routine. Studies have shown that less than 40 percent of Americans eat breakfast every day. You’ve probably heard this “don’t do” morning activity before, but do you know why skipping breakfast consistently makes “don’t do” lists? Harvard Doctor Leah Cahill explains, “As we sleep all night we are fasting, and so if we regularly do not ‘break fast’ in the morning, it puts a strain on our bodies that over time can lead to insulin resistance, hypercholesterolemia and blood pressure problems, which can then lead to heart disease.” The breakfast you eat can be both quick and healthy. Check out these 12 infographics to help you eat healthier.
Morning Action Tip: Trailing on Point 5’s coattails, try preparing your breakfast the night before. Avoid rushing in the morning, and break your fast.
Too much of a good thing can indeed be harmful. "Drockling," according to Mary A. Carskadon, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, “is the old, official term for dipping in and out of sleep in the early morning." You continually mess up your body’s internal clock each time you hit the snooze button. While it's true a good night's sleep is essential for health, drockling and oversleeping have been linked to a host of medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and increased risk of death. Hitting the snooze alarm
Morning Action Tip: Sorry, but you aren’t going to like this one. Set your alarm for the time you have to get up and then actually get up when it goes off, every day at the same time. Consistency over time will make the task of waking up less daunting.
8. Expecting perfection
Remind yourself – anytime, anywhere, but especially at the outset of each day – that you were born to be real, not perfect. Manage your energy, allot your time, prepare to the best of your abilities... and after that, just be real.
In exercise, work, and life in general, the statement “No Pain, No Gain” is oft quoted to motivate, encourage, and focus the recipient. It is intended to drive the “do-er” to push harder, work longer, run faster, jump higher, etc. But how far is too far? Is there a limit to how far we should push our bodies when confronted with physical and mental exhaustion? This question is particularly relevant when considering physical fitness and the limits that injuries can impose on our bodies. After all, by nature physical fitness can be a demanding and enervating activity on the body. Combine these activities with physical or mental exhaustion, poor form, and distraction and injury is almost inevitable. This, then, begs the question – when recovering from an injury, should you continue exercising? If so, how much activity is allowed? This question is often faced by avid fitness enthusiasts, as the one source of relief from mental stresses and worries can also be the source of their physical pain.
Exercise and physical activity is essential to a healthy body. It is important in treating both physical ailments, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as mental diseases, such as depression (Arao, Oida, Maruyama, et al). However, as with everything in life, there is a balance and a limit that must be respected. When the first signs of injury, such as inflammation, pain, and swelling are experienced, heavy exercise should be avoided. The common acronym, RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation – is most likely going to cited by your doctor as the first steps to injury recovery (Hall).
An article published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports describes three phases of the initial sports injury: the acute inflammatory phase, the proliferative phase, and the maturation and remodeling phase (Kannus, Parkkari, Järvinen, Järvinen, Järvinen). The article asserts that with this description of tissue injury the best recovery management involves the RICE method for the first 7 days. This method gives the tissue the best environment in which to heal (Kannus, et al).
Many health practitioners would agree the most important thing in injury recovery is giving your body the time and rest that it needs to heal (Amann). But at the same time, completely stopping all physical activity can be detrimental as well. “Too often the tendency is to stop exercising completely once an injury occurs. Many people are unaware that fitness training and injury recovery go hand-in-hand” (Amann). Some studies suggest that “early, controlled mobilization instead of prolonged immobilization” is the key to acute injury treatment (Kannus, et al).
In the same article published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, the authors asserted that very little total rest is needed before a gradual reintroduction of activity. In fact, their research into small mammals found that mobilization of the injured tissue is recommended after 3-5 days of immobilization and that muscular atrophy can begin with immobilization longer than 1 week. While the authors noted that healing times are likely to be slightly longer in humans, they did assert that experimental clinical trials in humans supported the same results. Their conclusion was that “a carefully conducted early controls mobilization is better than immobilization – not only in the primary treatment of acute soft-tissue injuries but also in post-operative care” (Kannus, et al.)
Based on these articles and studies, it appears that the general consensus among injury recovery specialists is that a short period of inactivity and rest followed by a progressive program of mobilization and reintroduction to activity is the ideal formula for injury recovery. While the initial rest is critical to prevent re-injury, gradual activity is just as important to long-term recovery and the prevention of related issues. This is important for all individuals, but especially for the avid fitness enthusiast. Not only does the research suggest that activity is beneficial, it also indicates that inactivity can cause damage long-term. Thus, while the question “Should I continue exercising” may require more information regarding the extent of the injury, overall the answer to this question can generally be answered positively.
Author: Brooke Lyons
Health and Safety Specialist
During and after pregnancy, the mother and her body go through a number of changes. Soon after the baby is born, most moms want to get back in shape and shed some baby weight. Unfortunately, there exist many unsafe resources that offer training and bootcamps to “get mom’s back their old bodies.” It is important to realize that the body may not be exactly the same as it used to be due to the intense physical changes that have taken place.. However, a woman’s body is fully capable of regaining a new, healthy level of strength and overall wellness.
The core is the primary area of the body to go through extreme changes during pregnancy; therefore, it is important to understand the four elements that make up the core. First, the diaphragm is a skeletal muscle that aids in respiration and works directly with the pelvic floor. During inhalation, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward. During exhalation, it stretches out and moves upward. Next, the transverse abdominis are the deepest abdominal layer, running horizontal and protecting the lumbar spine (low back), acting almost like a girdle. Third, the multifidus muscles are grouped along the spine, running from the cervical spine to the sacrum. The superficial muscle group (closest to the skin surface) helps keep the spine straight, while the deep muscle group helps to stabilize the spine. The more this muscle is strengthened, the less likely a person is to have low back pain. The last of the core four, the pelvic floor, is a group of muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments, and connective tissue in the pelvis. Both women and men have this support system for the pelvic organs.
One major core condition that takes place during pregnancy is called diastasis recti abdominis. This is when the rectus abdominis separates into two sections on either side of the linea alba, which is a fibrous band running vertically down the center of the anterior abdominals between the two rectus abdominal muscles. It is usually noticeable after delivery and in most cases will begin to heal itself within the first eight weeks with corrective exercises. Some of the symptoms associated with diastasis are low back pain, pelvic or sacroiliac joint pain, incontinence, and increased risk of injury. If unsafe exercises are prescribed, it can make the separation worse and/or slow the healing process.
When postnatal women decide it’s time to return to an exercise program, it is extremely important to perform safe and appropriate corrective exercises. One of the best exercises for regaining core strength, more specifically the pelvic floor, is the pelvic tilt. To perform this movement, the woman should lie on her back with knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. During the exhale, the low back should be pressed against the floor and the pelvis should tilt toward the direction of the head. It should feel as if the belly button is being drawn to the spine and floor. This is also a safe exercise because it does not place pressure on the abdominal wall in a prone (downward, facing the floor) position.
Another safe and effective exercise is the lying hip thrust. This is excellent for strengthening and shaping the glutes, which help to support the pelvis, pelvic floor, and the low back. In addition, the hip thrust will also actively engage the hamstrings, quadriceps, and adductor muscles, resulting in improved strength of the entire thigh. Start by lying on the back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor about shoulder width apart, and arms resting at the sides. Press through your heels, activate the glutes, and lift the hips off the floor. Your weight should rest on your heels and your upper back. Extend your hips until they form a straight line with your knees and shoulders. Make sure the end range of motion comes from the hips, squeezing the glutes together at the top of the movement. Hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds and then return to the starting position. This exercise requires no equipment, does not take up much space, and can be performed anywhere.
There are a variety of appropriate exercises that can be performed post pregnancy; be sure to find a professional trainer who can safely guide the exercise program along. The convenience factor is an added bonus! The majority of exercises can be performed in the comfort of your own home with little or no equipment needed, all while keeping an eye on the baby! This will make for happy and healthy Mom!
The Death of Good Posture, The Birth of New Markets
The word chair comes from the Latin language word cathedra (Greek kathedra), which is derived from the contraction of kata, for “down,” and hedra, for “to sit.” The related word, “throne,” arrives in the English language from the Indo-European base word dher, which means “to hold or support.” Indeed for much of its history - from classical times to the time of the pharaohs - the chair was reserved for royalty, while ordinary folk sat on backless chests, benches, or stools.
It seems that since humankind first stood up to see over the tall Savannah grasses, they have been looking for a place to sit back down. As early migratory peoples settled into domesticated lifestyles, a seat that elevated the body away from the floor came to represent the civilized person. Elevating humans, humans of elevated status especially, have long been associated with the history of chairs.
In most ways, humans are brilliant for having created chairs, and stupid for continuing to use them. The centralization of urban trade centers and governments over time introduced chairs to the general population, eventually resulting in today’s highly sedentary American culture. Global studies show, on average, we sit 7.7 hours a day, and some results estimate people sit up to 15 hours a day.
By the simple act of constructing an artificial place to sit, humans began the long tradition of distinguishing themselves from the animal world. With elevated and distinguished status come the trials and tribulations of physiological and biomechanical impediments other uncivilized animals have the pleasure of foregoing.
Among these include cardiovascular disease and obesity, not to mention high blood pressure, upper crossed and lower crossed syndromes and back pain, thoracic outlet syndrome, shoulder and neck discomfort, and various forms of tendonitis.
Dead-butt syndrome also makes the list of chair-induced conundrums. The literal pain in the butt you feel when your gluteus medius is inflamed, dead-butt syndrome comes as a result of sitting for extended periods of time and jumping straight into physical activity without a proper warm-up.
Physical therapists, exercise specialists, motor learning researchers, and other biomechanists pride themselves on improving body movement and function. Those working in the field of ergonomics look to improve people’s work environment efficiency. When applied properly, ergonomic analysis, design, and applications have been proven effective in the corporate battle against physical white collar pain.
Others market a different approach. Instead of using our bipedal features and magnificently designed hips, we have created new markets to fill our need for better chairs. From the Zenergy to the Swopper to the Wobble – we as a culture have worked to fix a problem with materials that will likely create future problems.
As a kind public service announcement, I think it’s important people understand the following: the body’s purpose is not solely its transportation service the head. It is capable of movement. It was born for change.
Ass to Grass...Why It’s Important
In a comprehensive piece describing the deep squat's good, bad, and not so ugly, physical therapist Aaron Swanson sites a plethora of deep-squat resources. He includes in his article a diagram based on several studies illustrating varying degrees of knee flexion and their associated forces and EMG activity.
But What About...
With this said, it is vitally important to remember that deep squatting is not for everyone.
Importantly, with decreased shear force comes increased compressive force due to the inverse relationship that exists between the two. Proper implementation of progressive overload and the SAID principles (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) should diminish the possible negative effects caused by their force relationship. Still, it could pose a problem to some.
Furthermore, as Swanson puts it, “Everyone was born to squat, but not everyone has grown to squat. This is due to the body adapting to life’s imposed demands.”
People with mobility restrictions and certain pathologies should not perform such movements. Certainly the little gentleman pictured was born to deep squat. So was the fifty year old gentleman corporate worker; yet sitting at a desk for hours upon hours each week has undone his ability to do so properly. Incorporating such movements into ones programs undoubtedly depends on individual goals and abilities.
Your invitation to take a seat: the 30/30 challenge
Maybe you are wondering how to start implementing this information into your daily routine. Movement is the organic solution, and practice makes better. Try working on it with the so-simple-yet-so-hard 30/30 challenge!
...Kick Up the Challenge
Try implementing some of Ido Portal’s squat and flexibility routine into your workout regimen for a greater challenge.
The following is an attempt to connect interdisciplinary phenomenon strung together by the common thread of human life and its importance. All lives matter. These words are intended for every body; every body put on this earth with a brain whose primary purpose for all intents and purposes is movement.
We live in a scary world. A world where, at any second, life could instantly be forever changed for the worst. Beliefs and emotions run high no matter history’s source, though the topics of discussion may differ. Along with the commonality of high emotion exists the use of graphs. Pictures often provide a more tangible way for many to understand concepts and large numbers; a way of communicating that sometimes helps break down barriers.
The Question & Problem At Hand…Figures and Facts
In light of recent events, I feel there is no better time to further debunk ignorance, especially as it concerns health. How do deaths caused by American obesity compare to other causes of death concerning our nation – how can we make tangible the severity that is the issue of (poor) health?
A challenge from the President, in the aftermath of yet another horrible shooting, resulted in the creation of the following graph. The data illustrated and taken from the Centers for Disease Control is clearly labeled in the graph’s heading.
A graph representing the number of American deaths caused by terrorism versus those caused by gun violence; eye-opening to some, though many already had an inkling this was the case deep down somewhere. Now for the next part.
Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, we compared these values to the number of American deaths caused by heart disease. Such a comparison has already been alluded to to some extent. In an October 2015 article, Wired Magazine compared American gun and terrorist deaths using the following chart. Clearly, the number of deaths caused by heart disease is astonishingly high, as illustrated in the graph’s upper right hand corner.
This is not enough, however. Taking things a step further, how do the number of American deaths caused by obesity compare to human loss caused by these two acts of human violence? Creating such a comparison would be quite challenging.
Obesity itself is never listed as someone’s cause of death. Instead, the complications of obesity, such as heart disease or diabetes, are blamed for a person's death. Research suggests that one’s risk for a number of serious health problems multiplies significantly with obesity status. Eight obesity-related diseases in particular account for 75 percent of healthcare costs in the US:
Type 2 Diabetes
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Cancer (especially breast, endometrial, colon, gallbladder, prostate and kidney
The first four diseases are associated with metabolic syndrome, a common factor in obesity. Several other diseases affect metabolic dysfunction, including NAFLD and PCOS. And many more could be added to this list: obesity increases your risk for asthma, sleep disorders (including sleep apnea), depression, pregnancy complications, and poor surgical outcomes. So, compiling accurate data to create a comparison between death rates caused by firearms, terrorism, and obesity would be a challenge..yet not impossible.
Let’s borrow data from the CDC Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report - specifically, information pertaining to American deaths caused by cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Do the hokey-pokey, mix it all about, and BAM!
Well now, it would appear obesity-related deaths highly outnumbers those caused by both firearms and terrorist attacks. Importantly, the obesity related data above includes diabetes mellitus as a whole. In adults, type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Though the illustrated data does not differentiate between deaths caused Type 1 and Type 2, respectively, any changes this might produce within the depiction would prove negligible.
Confused? Such a large data range warrants a second illustration – one that better depicts the concern at hand.
The same message regarding obesity and its life-threatening effects is clear. Importantly, the data illustrated in the pie chart suggests that terrorism’s show voice trumps its statistical worth. Certainly, show voice is a topic for a different article. The author would like to make the following very clear: terrorism is a concern and by no means carries a zero value. All lives matter. With this said, lives lost because of obesity and its complications also matter and are newsworthy.
Conclusion … No Sh*t
Conclusion to the intrigue: Obesity is a problem, and a serious problem at that. Let’s be honest, you probably already knew this. Maybe the graphs and charts put things into better prescriptive – or, a more staggering perspective.
With all this buzz talk of health and wellness that permeates our culture, how is it this isn’t a headline news? Why are the media’s boogeymen stories, along with whatever unembellished statistics and stories the media does pursue, overshadowing this great terrorist at large within our nation – the one that exists to some degree in every corner of our culture.
Discussion … A Piece-Meal Villain
The multifaceted obesity blame game is complex to say the least. Certainly, technological advances have resulted in more screen time and less physical movement for adults and children, alike. Ironically, a generation of parents fixated on being buff is raising a generation of physical weaklings. Two-thirds of American children can’t pass a basic physical. According to President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 40% of boys and 70% of girls ages six to seventeen can’t manage more than one pull-up; and 40% show early signs of circulation problems.
Also to blame is our culture’s relationship with nature. As Richard Louv explains in The Last Child in the Woods, “Though we often see ourselves as separate from nature, humans are also part of that wildness.” Cultural introspection as it relates to nature will require reform within the education system, pharmaceutical industry, and the fields of environmentalism and law.
A recent publication in The British Journal of Sports Medicine places carbohydrates, not physical inactivity, behind the surge in obesity. While regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and some cancers by at least 30 percent, physical activity cannot undo a poor diet. Typical American diets exceed the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars; refined grains; sodium; and saturated fat. "Healthy choice must become the easy choice," say the study’s experts.
Public misperception due to dodgy corporate marketing undoubtedly plays a role in obesity’s terror. Various sources describe the "public relations tactics of the food industry as 'chillingly similar to those of Big Tobacco,' which deployed denial, doubt, confusion and 'bent scientists' to convince the public that smoking was not linked to lung cancer."
Connecting these and other culprits typically suggests dollar signs hold together this terror’s sticky web.
So which villain is to blame? – all of them and more.
A Suggested Resolution…A Reformation Movement
I (and, I believe, most Americans) sometimes find myself operating in the Generation M spirit of multitasking in the name of progress, linearity, extrinsic acceptance and entrepreneurial pursuit. With our freedom of choice and dogma culture come the diminished freedom to exist in a state of (hyper)awareness, the promotion of corporal-kinesthetic disconnectedness, and the dwindling of movement intelligence.
Working to create staked- out territories of blame serves as an ignorant and ultimately fruitless effort, albeit a place to start.Real systemic change will begin with the conjoining of two movements: a top-down movement stemming from scientific research and legislative statements expressing concern by health authorities; and a bottom-up movement born out of the pain and shortened lives caused by obesity.
Creativity expert Ken Robinson speaks of an educational reformation in which “we have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it's an organic process.”
The other war on terror – our nation’s battle with obesity and poor health – is an organic problem to its core. This home-grown terrorist is a living problem concerning human life, and the organic food and movement our bodies need to flourish.
The Bottom Line...
And now for the grand finale; the only question you as a reader really care about The age old WIIFM question: “What’s in it for me?” The answer to that question lives in the CDC’s numbers; in the pictures included in this piece of writing.
What’s in it for you … your life.
Louv, Richard. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books
Take a second to think about the lifestyle of immediate and extended family members. Are they physically active? Is there history of heart disease, hypertension, and/or coronary artery disease? Chances are the answer is yes. The Center for Disease Control reports that heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. What can be done about such an alarming problem? Is society doing enough to help prevent this frightening statistic?
Physical inactivity is the top heart disease risk factor. Therefore, it is imperative to drastically increase the activity levels of Americans. Many adults are unaware of the recommended physical activity minutes per week. Currently, the government states that adults should perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week to lower the risk of premature death, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. For additional benefits such as lower risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, and unhealthy weight gain, the government recommends that adults should perform at least 300 minutes of activity a week (health.gov). While these numbers and benefits sound appealing, it seems like more needs to be done considering that close to 800,000 Americans have their first heart attack each year (Healthline). The minimum amount of exercise is no longer enough to keep people’s hearts healthy enough for a lasting good quality of life.
Research has found that physical activity and heart failure is considered a “dose dependant” relationship. Therefore, the more physically active a person is, the lower their risk of heart failure (Washington Post). That means the 53% of Americans who said they do not participate in physical activity have a much higher risk of experiencing heart failure. The most important thing is to get the body moving, whether it be in increments of 10 minutes or a full hour of exercise. If time is an issue, no worries! There are short but very effective workouts such as HIIT (high intensity interval training) that fit easily into a busy schedule. This and other vigorous exercise is equivalent to performing two minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, still granting the heart all of the benefits. Cardiovascular exercise is not the only helper on the journey towards a healthier heart. Lifting weights has been shown to reduce heart-disease risk by about 25% (Health). Given the wide variety of exercise types to choose from, there is no excuse not to add it to a daily routine.
Despite the information on how much to exercise and what types of exercise count, such a severe risk of heart disease still dominates American women and men. Think about what the average person does on a daily basis outside of that recommended 150 minutes per week. Perhaps it is not just about structured exercise, but simply moving more often throughout the day. Many people commute to and from work sitting in the car and spend most of their work day immobile at a desk. Taking a break to walk around for several minutes each hour, or taking the stairs rather than the elevator is an easy way for people in these situations to get more active minutes in their day. Parking the car further away at the store instead of the closest spot will allow for an increase in activity level, all benefiting the heart! Gardening or playing a friendly game of basketball on a nice day instead of sitting inside on the computer are also excellent ways to increase activity levels without participating in structured exercise. The options are limitless!
Take inventory of those immediate and extended family members who are suffering from heart disease and let it be a reminder to make physical activity a part of each day. If individuals create a lifestyle where they are not only participating in structured exercise, but moving their bodies more often, there is far more opportunity to take care of the most important muscle in the body; the heart.