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What Has Changed in Health & Fitness Over the Last 30 Years?
There have been many changes in fitness over the past 30 years. It is human nature to remember the past. That’s great, but don’t forget that things change too. This is certainly true in the field of health and fitness. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get the results you’ve always gotten” is true, but what if the situation changes? Then what worked is no longer a viable and effective way to achieve the results we want. In this article, I outline seven things that have changed over the past 30 years that affect how we view health, fitness, exercise, and what is considered “best.” Let’s take a look at some of these changes in Fitness.
This change in fitness is pretty obvious. We just don’t move as much as we used to 30 years ago.
Currently, the average sedentary person living in an urban environment takes between 900 and 3000 steps per day. Umm…that’s a hell of a number! In the Journal of Sports Medicine, the existing literature was compiled as a general guideline for what would be a good number of steps per day.
Author Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke translated different physical activities into step-a-day equivalents. A count of less than 5,000 is classified as sedentary, 5,000 to 7,499 is slightly active, 7,500 to 9,999 is somewhat active, 10,000 or more is active, and 12,500 or more is very active. What does 900 make us? Near dead! But it’s not hard to imagine. Get up, take the elevator to the parking lot, drive the car, take the elevator to the office, sit down, order fast food, reverse the process back home and back to sleep. Just note that 1 km is about 1300 steps.
It has gotten to the point where we have to purposely challenge ourselves to increase our activity levels. Here are some suggestions (which really show us how pathetic our average activity levels have become).
Park at the far end of the parking lot and walk to your building Instead of dropping the kids off in front of the school, park a couple blocks before it and walk them the whole way… 10k is actually a LOW estimate for kids.
Walk around the mall or supermarket randomly. In today’s super malls, this is a big deal!
Use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator (if you work on the 50th floor, maybe climb halfway to start)
Give the dog an extra 5 minutes of walking (we need it even more than he does)
Stop emailing co-workers in the same office, go to them and chat with them (shockingly effective considering how much email we send every day!… also good for team building)
Go for a walk during your lunch break, walk to pick up lunches or look for a place to have lunch
Get up and do something, run up and down the stairs during TV commercials for example (no excuses!)
Walk to the corner store instead of driving or stopping by on your way home
Walk to friends instead of driving
Take public transport and walk from the train station
Dr. David Bassett researched the Amish community to see how things were in the past. These guys have no cars, no electricity and do hard manual labor to put food on the table. It’s like time travel to the past. They eat 3 large meals a day containing lots of meat, vegetables and natural starches such as potatoes.
98 of the Amish adults studied in Bassett wore a pedometer for a week. Men took an average of 18,000 steps a day. Women took an average of 14,000 steps.
The men spent about 10 hours a week doing hard work such as plowing, shoeing horses, throwing hay bales and digging. Women spent about 3.5 hours a week on heavy work. The men spent 55 hours a week in moderate activity; women reported doing 45 hours a week of moderate chores such as gardening and laundry. Wow, that’s a lot of manual work. Get a pedometer (it’s only 20 bucks) and see how you do.
2. Fat percentage and obesity
Activity leads us directly to this point of obesity. The dreaded obesity is one of the most visible changes in fitness.
Among the Amish population, obesity was 4 percent according to body mass index (BMI). The current obesity rate in the urban population is 30 percent or more. OK, obesity rates are a scary thing because obesity is already in the “very high risk of many bad ways to die” category. We still have to consider the overweight category (obviously obese, but not medically obese). These people are already in great danger!
The overall percentage of overweight + obese is really wild… already almost 70% in some cities. Compare this to the 1980s average. 10-15% obesity in most cities. It rose to mid-20 percent in 1995 and is now at an all-time high.
OK, related to point 2 is of course diet. This is another obvious change in fitness. It’s actually very simple. We now eat more processed food (white bread, sugar, rice, flour, noodles). In the body, these give pretty much the same answer – fat storage. The only time we should eat these products is right after a hard workout. As we can conclude from point no. 1, there is not much training going on. But eating a lot is!
We also eat less fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. We eat more snacks like chips and crackers (which are also processed, despite what advertisers say).
These changes in condition become more worrying because even organic foods are no longer as good for us as they used to be. With current cultivation methods, the vitamin and mineral content of fruits and vegetables decreases by about 10-40%, depending on the mineral. Corn-fed meat does not give us as good a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 as we got from grass-fed and free-range animals. (it means we don’t have as many healthy fatty acids)
And of course we also burn more calories. The Amish in the study in Section 1 ate about 3600 calories/day for men and 2100 calories/day for women. Many sedentary people consume this much and more! How? Well, a fully “equipped” gourmet coffee from coffee beans or Starbucks can add up to 500 calories in an instant for a caffeine addict.
That’s 2 hours of walking for an average woman.
Remember that the quality of calories also matters. 2000 calories from vegetables, meat and healthy fats is infinitely better than 2000 calories from french fries. It is almost impossible to gain weight with the first, and almost impossible not to gain weight with the second.
I like this car comparison. If you had a $2 million dream car, would you put low grade or high grade gasoline in it? High rating of course! So why do some people put low quality crap in their bodies that is so much more important than the car we drive?
4. Games that children play
The average child growing up in an urban environment is weak in motor skills. As a hobby, I coach youth basketball. In our talent search, the children do a very simple exercise of crawling in and out and around cones. There are so many kids who can’t do that and some who I think might fall over if asked to RUN around cones without a ball! This is unlike the past when children ran, chased each other, played physical games and all kinds of sports, when the playground was the center of children’s fun. This lack of activity not only causes a change in a child’s condition in their youth, but also has a profound long-term effect.
Of course, this change in fitness is the result of a combination of possible factors.
Parents who see only academic success as worth pursuing, who only give recognition and praise to the child when he does well in academic subjects.
An education system that also values book knowledge over other things and takes away physical education classes to increase academic lessons.
Poorly taught physical education classes that do not help the child develop motor skills in the most important early years Busy two-income families where fathers are not free to play with their children (or do not care enough… money is not everything dads)
A shocking computer game addiction situation where virtual life is more important than real life. I believe this is the reason for the empty basketball courts in all my neighborhoods. In the past, the teams settled down to play there. Now only people my age (20-30 years old) play. There are no young children there anymore.
But really, so what? The problem is that if kids stink at sports and physical activity, the well-known psychological factor of “competence” comes into play. Simply put, we tend to do what we’re good at. If our next generation is bad at sports and physical activity, they are even less likely to do it! Together with points 1-3 cause a deadly health crisis for many countries. Obesity costs the UK 7.4 billion National Health Service a year! If we don’t help our children, it will only become a bigger and bigger burden for everyone.
5. Social support
This is a more subtle change in fitness. Humans are communal animals. We stick to things because we have a supportive community behind us. Even drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers recognize this. We all need social support. But social connections are weakening. And no, Friendster and MySpace links won’t replace it.
In a more connected but less intimate world (I know a lot of people who thrive only behind a computer screen and not in front of a real person) there is less social support than before (extended families, community living, strong friendships within the neighborhood, etc.) and it’s hard to hold on to something , which requires dedication and sacrifice, like an exercise program. I’m not a sociologist, but I think there’s a reason that exercise classes do better in terms of membership than individual training. Most of them are certainly not as effective as a great one-on-one coaching. But the social factor comes into play when maintaining a lifestyle change is involved.
6. Free time
This subtle change in fitness is pretty obvious. We just have less time than we “own”. Bosses, social, family and other commitments make free time a very precious commodity, complicating the fact that time is our only non-renewable resource. When we choose to exercise or spend time cooking to maintain a healthy lifestyle, we compete for free time with movies, games, television and other things. We know exercise is good for us, but it doesn’t just have to be good for us, it has to be BETTER in our minds than the latest episode of Desperate Housewives or the latest computer game. That’s the point. We need to prioritize long-term health over temporary fun.
7. Training methods
OK, we’re doing well here. 30 years ago, the aerobics craze took over the Western world. It is not a very good training method both in terms of results and results per unit of time. Add to that the fact that we have so little time to train, we can’t afford to train optimally. We know a lot more now. Fortunately, we have good methods with which smart coaches improve the efficiency of training and get RESULTS even with less training time. Some of these include intelligently designed resistance training programs, interval training, and good assessment techniques to determine individual needs. With a coach like that in your corner, you can turn back the clock and avoid becoming one of the ever-growing statistics of people’s health going in the wrong direction. Stay fit and strong and good luck!
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