I read this morning that American school children are among the least fit on the planet – ranking 47th out of 50 scored nations. Such was the conclusion of the British Journal of Sports Medicine in a recent study.
The study measured aerobic capacity using a simple 20 meter run test. Children from Tanzania, Iceland and Estonia took the top placements. Mexico was dead last. Our kids weren’t too far from the Mexicans. Britain’s children placed alongside the Canadians in the middle of the pack.
The British Journal has released similar findings for years as have numerous other organizations. This particular study places, as have others, some of the blame on income inequality. Nations with a wider gap between the truly rich and the poor see an increase in childhood (and adult) obesity. Oddly, the obesity is generally concentrated among the poor.
This trend runs counter to the bulk of the 10,000 year history of settled or civilized human history. Usually the poor are rather thin, being unable to afford adequate foodstuff. This was a universal condition until about 100 years ago and still holds for most of the world. The American poor are among the wealthiest and heaviest poor in the world. The indigent in developing nations are rarely overweight.
I think there are three answers to this riddle. The first two have to do with societal evolution, particularly in the first world. One: our modern lives are more sedentary than they used to be. Consumed calories are not burned efficiently. Two: science and capitalism have given us an abundance of easy, fast, relatively cheap, but less-than-healthy quantity of food. Three: our government subsidizes the consumption of the junk food, especially among the poor.
The first factor is something individuals will need to address as time progresses. As the robots take over the workforce people will need to adopt other means of exercise. This may be a golden opportunity for some fun.
The second will likely work itself out. Humanity has never experienced food production and distribution such as we see now. Invariably, quality should overtake quantity as the new systems mature.
The last factor is perhaps the most troubling. Governments supply people with food not out of kindness but, rather, from a desire to control the population. Handouts breed dependency and docile conditioning – and obesity. This has to be part of the grand scheme of the elite.
The problems for Americans have grown considerably over the past 30-40 years. Our children mirror our adults. Today 70% of all Americans are either overweight or obese. This is a hefty and growing problem. The solutions, in and of themselves, are very simple: eat less, move more. The application, bound by conditioning and psychology, are more difficult.
Even if one breaks away from the expectations of sloth and fast food corpulence, one may still have problems. Overzealous attention to fitness can lead to problems. As I noted yesterday, my attention to extreme anaerobic strength has left me nearly crippled today. My daily venture from the bed to the coffee pot took about 20 minutes this morning. I have the sensation that a shovel is lodged in the small of my back.
Standing, sitting, moving, and resting are painful. Instant relief is afforded only by elevating my knees while lying down and,simultaneously placing my lower back in traction. This is difficult and unsustainable. Fortunately the body and mind become accustomed to pain. And the pain never lasts long. And from it comes new strength.
For now, Advil is a dear friend. I also consider alternative pain relief.
One good thing about an acute injury is that it immediately takes away other, minor pains. I had a strain in my bicep and a catch in my neck. Both were aggravating. Now? Ha! Can’t even notice them. There’s always something to be grateful for.
So it is with our slow, weak, and bloated society. 70% in bad health means that 70% can enjoy marked improvements. I hope they do, I think they can.
Now, where’s my walker?