Convenience Over Conditioning
Humans are completely consumed with the technological advances of today. Whether it comes to communication, news outlets, agriculture, transportation, and so on; we are surrounded by it from the moment we wake up. As humans we often take advantage of technological advances without any long term knowledge of the consequences.
For example, when canned food products came out in the early 1900’s. People marveled at the convenience and accessibility of canned foods and they skyrocketed across the board. Everything imaginable was canned with tons of preservatives and other ingredients to make it nonperishable. Here, we saw an immediate short term benefit, but no one even thought that there could be anything wrong with consuming these products in such a high volume. Looking back on this we see that there are so many health problems associated with this change in diet such as diabetes, high cholesterol and heart health in general.
Another example of this instant hit products that no one thought twice about were cigarettes. People went from enjoying a smoke on airplanes and in hospitals, to now realizing the destruction that was caused by them. This is the scary part about very new ways of living and products we are exposed to. Human nature has proved that if we like a product, we absolutely abuse it until we realize the hidden long term side effects.
The same can be said about human activity in today’s society. To get a bit more specific, the comparison between physical exertion we once knew and physical exertion we now know is light years away from each other. Picture a railroad being constructed in order to successfully transport goods during the industrial revolution. Let’s put ourselves in the position of a worker on this railroad assembling team. You grab your shovel and start digging and evening the soil over endless yards of hard dirt and gravel. When that is done you carry heavy pieces of steel and begin to line up and hammer in each piece one by one. Driving heavy metal stakes into the ground with an even heavier sledge hammer. You do this all day for your livelihood and it is the norm for your lifestyle.
Now, let’s take a look at what we have to do to get this same physical exertion. Now, our role is an everyday person in today’s world going to the gym. You pick up two dumbbells and press them over your shoulders and your heart rate starts going. You do this for four sets of ten repetitions each. You finish up and put the dumbbells back on the rack where you got them. You then move to the bench press where you load up heavy plates on both sides of a metal bar. You begin pressing the weight to your chest over and over again. You stretch your muscles with each repetition to trigger growth in the pectorals. You then carry the weights back and place them back on the rack as you did before. You do this over and over with each exercise for 45 minutes to get some form of activity in your. However, there’s a huge difference when comparing both scenarios.
Digging into the ground with shovel and dumbbell pressing both work the muscles in your shoulders and upper back, but digging into the ground with a shovel was done out of productivity. There is no byproduct of working out at a gym besides achieving physical fitness. The point being made is that physical activity and laboring over a job or for survival used to go hand and hand. We did not need to even think about finding ways to physically challenge ourselves because that was already included in the day’s work. Industrialization, while convenient, has taken once necessary human labor out of the equation. We now have cranes, jack hammers, and other industrial tools to assemble railroads. The irony is that the man or woman working these machines could very possibly be an inactive and overall unhealthy person.
We continue to try and find the quickest and most effortless way to complete tasks and it is killing our chances of living a healthy and extended life. We’ve seen obesity explode in the U.S. In the paper, “The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change,” there is a correlation between the price of physical activity in relation to the food we purchase. “In a post-industrial and redistributive society, such as the United States, most work entails little exercise and not working may not cause a large reduction in weight, because food stamps and other welfare benefits are available to people who do not work.” This quotation from the paper dives into the fact that after becoming so advanced we are not required to do much manual labor at all.
The authors go on to say that this has in a sense made physical activity more expensive in an abstract sense. We now need to set aside time and money to get our physical activity outside of our occupation/daily life. When this has become too “expensive” we have seen our health as a society deteriorate and our body weight to increase dramatically across the board.
Along with this lack of physical activity, the food that is being sold to us has been decreasing in quality year over year. This is due to the ongoing growth of the population where agriculture is left to find the fastest ways to get food out. Corners are cut in order to produce food at this volume and this inevitably hurts the quality of the products. Also, cheaper foods are higher in calories, sugars and preservatives. This economically looks appealing, but is often horrible for our bodies if consumed on a regular basis. The higher the quality, the higher the price.
This obviously makes sense, as something that is overall healthier or better for your body would be more costly, but it is a sad reality that the majority of the foods found in a grocery store have been mass produced and as filling as possible. It’s no wonder that we see amazing deals on huge bottles of sodas and family sized bags of chips. These companies have products that are loaded with horrible ingredients, but they have us hooked on the addictive taste. They have perfected their manufacturing to have unbelievable margins, and the public eats it up, no pun intended. We buy these items in bulk and households go right to them, eating and drinking morning to night.
As a society, we need to take a step back and slow down this mass produced influx of technology and unhealthy consumption. Everything is so fast paced that we do not even realize we are jeopardizing our health in ways that haven’t even been discovered as of yet.We need to turn around our relationship with food and active lifestyles and find a way to “cheapen” the price of getting ourselves moving during the day. Without it we are going to regress quickly and that should be motivation to spend our days with our bodies in mind.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2767437/Lakdawalla, Darius, and Tomas Philipson. “The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change.” Economics and Human Biology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2009, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2767437/.
Anderson, Janna, and Lee Rainie. “Concerns about the Future of People’s Well-Being and Digital Life.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 31 Dec. 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/04/17/concerns-about-the-future-of-peoples-well-being/.