The Modern Problem
Think about the physical activity that has been lost through the following modern conveniences. We drive instead of walk. We use e-mail instead of going to the post office. We use a food processor instead of mixing dough. We watch television instead of walking to the movies. We call people instead of walking over to their houses. We have food delivered rather than going out to eat. We use leaf blowers, riding lawn mowers, and power tools. We use escalators instead of stairs.
Because we have reduced the time we spend doing even simple activities that used more of our arms, legs, back, heart, and lungs, our bodies have become weaker and less capable of work. This rise in inactivity has been devastating to our health. Truly, we have witnessed the meaning of the “use it or lose it” phenomenon. When we don't use our bodies, we lose the ability to use them.
This grim reality is described by Dr. Kenneth Cooper in his revolutionary book Aerobics: “A body that isn't used deteriorates. The lungs become inefficient, the heart grows weaker, the blood vessels less pliable, the muscles lose tone and the body generally weakens throughout, leaving it vulnerable for a whole catalog of illness and disease. Your whole system for delivering oxygen almost literally shrivels up.” The bottom line is this: We are meant to be active, and our health depends upon it. When the body is used, it thrives; when it isn't, it merely survives.
Americans watch an average of more than four hours of TV a day, or two full months of TV a year. According to Dr. William Dietz, Director of the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Centers for Disease Control, “The easiest way to reduce inactivity is to turn off the TV set. Almost anything else uses more energy than watching TV.”
In 1900, the leading causes of deaths in the United States were not at all related to lifestyle, but were instead diseases and infections that science had not yet figured out. They included pneumonia, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis, and influenza. Since then medicine has found the solutions to those problems, but our lifestyle has created new ones. The leading causes of death in 1990 were heart disease, stroke, cancer, and accidents.
As you can see, the leading causes of death in 1900 were biological in nature and could be reduced through vaccines and treatments. The leading causes of death in 1990, on the other hand, were related to lifestyle and could be reduced through fitness. Fitness as prevention is effective, simple, and inexpensive compared to the cost of the medical treatment for those diseases.