Effortless Destruction of the Human Body

The human pursuit to make life as effortless as possible, has deemed the human body as the equivalent of a utilitarian piece of junk. What once was building railroads and large ocean liners to improve transportation, is now starting our cars at the push of a button. When food was necessary we plowed fields, shoveled dirt and grew it ourselves. Now, we simply go to the grocery store and have our pick of a plethora of items. Communication went from writing letters to speaking from around the world via zoom or facetime.  Exercise was part of our daily routines  while taking care of the necessities of life.  However, we find ourselves in the ironic situation of lifting heavy weights and putting them right back down where we found them and running on treadmills while staying in the exact place we’ve started. Healthy and active work is so scarce that we essentially perform useless tasks in order to get our necessary activity in for the day.

This leaves us to determine if our modern day society, while highly advanced and convenient, will prove to be beneficial when all is said and done.  We have to think to ourselves if innovation at this pace will be overwhelmingly positive, or have adverse effects.  From the very beginning of the human race, the human brain has developed new ways to make survival more and more attainable.  This started over 2 million years ago with the development of the earliest stone tools.  There was a continuous growth for survival even down to the human brain itself.  Even going from homo erectus to homo habilis there was an increase in brain capacity.  This went on to later have crucial creations such as the wheel.  This made life so much easier by taking a lot of labor out of the equation.  Crafting carts with wheels meant less walking, more trade, even cattle drawn carts to take on a lot of the agricultural needs.  Humans naturally kept advancing and soon enough in the early 1700’s the industrial revolution was upon us.  This redefined transportation and increased the profit ratio for entrepreneurs as they didn’t need as much labor in order to produce the same product.  This led all the way up to the technological era during the latter portion of the 20th century which skyrocketed items that would be accessible to the public to make household chores and communication much easier.  However, the daily tasks of life such as preparing a full meal for your family or physically working on your house or for a career have all been replaced by technology and machines.  Instant communication such as the internet and smartphones have distracted us from other forms of entertainment and have trapped us on the couch or in bed.  This is horrible for the body as we can sit and have the world at our fingertips without moving a muscle.  This has led to a lack of activity and physical exercise as we have cut out anything strenuous.  The article, The Evolution of Technology and Physcial Activity, explains that obesity and heart problems have skyrocketed; those classified as obese or overweight increasing by 30% since the 1960’s.  Even though many are living longer, the last years of life are often ruined by health concerns caused by inactivity.  We have improved life so much that it is starting to destroy us.

As problem solvers, we humans now find the cause, effect and solution of these blaring statistics.  It is evident that the lack of physical activity has made us physically inadequate.  “Only 1 in 4 US adults and 1 in 5 high school students meet the recommended physical activity guidelines,” says the article Lack of Physical Activity from the CDC.  This tells us that the majority of people in the US are not physically active enough to meet the standard amount of activity.  It is shown that medical complications due to this lack of activity have built up over $100 billion in medical bills annually.  The article from the CDC goes on to say cancer, diabetes and heart disease, three of the most deadly conditions, are directly linked to the lack of exercise.  Not only are we missing out on avoiding these horrible diseases, but we are also losing out on the extra benefits of physical activity.  This includes better sleep, physical and cognitive stamina increases and bone density/skeletal health.  The combination of eating right and exercising regularly takes stress off of your body in more ways than one.  Eating cleaner takes stress off digestion, exercising increases blood flow which takes stress off of your heart, and the combination of the two will reduce body mass which takes stress off bones and joints.  Our world has strirpped us of everything physical so in response, taking care of our body is absolutely necessary.  If we do not, our way of life is not set up for us to regularly get activity in.  Humans at one time needed to use every waking moment for survival, for food, water, and shelter. However, now we do not even need to leave the house.

While physical activity has outstanding health benefits, it is crucial to the well being and longevity of the human body. Due to technology, many of us succumb to a sedentary lifestyle.  The aim of this analysis in the article, Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death,

was to take a closer look at the interconnection of sedentary time with health issues, specifically diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular.  Research has been focused on seeking the links between the intensity of physical activity and overall health. The article goes on to say that most of this research overlooks the potential importance of the distinction between “sedentary activity and light-intensity physical activity.” Examples of sedentary behavior include sitting in a car, sitting at a computer, watching TV, etc.  Researchers featured in this article note that objective measures have demonstrated that the average adult spends 50-60% of their day in sedentary positions/activities. In addition, research showed that diabetes and death both have a strong association with a sedentary lifestyle.  Most human beings are practicing sedentary behavior for 50-60 percent of our days. Driving, TV time, desk time, etc.. People are either purely lazy or they are busy working at a desk all day long or traveling to work. Our lives are almost centered around technology in the workplace. It has honestly become such a habit and necessity in order to complete the most important tasks that even little things  like getting up to move or going to the gym seem so taxing and people either have a lot of trouble doing it or they skip out on it completely.  

With rising obesity and weight related medical conditions, there is a correlation of areas of the workforce decreasing in physical labor.  The decomposition of our once labor intensive and industrial work could be the cause of the utter lack of physical activity whatsoever.  A survey was taken among over 25,000 members of the British workforce, that took down their activity in all facets of their life.  As physical labor decreased, the trend was most likely the same across the board. This goes beyond simply the correlation of occupation and activity level.  “In Europe more than 65% of the adult population is insufficiently active, and this has been related to increasing levels of obesity and related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and several forms of cancer,” according to the world health organization.  The amount of miles a person walks per year has gone down over 25% and is currently about less than a mile a day.  These effects were about the same in men and women, however the variation in results changed with regard to time period and region of the world. Our jobs are no longer taxing on the body and labor has been so divided up across industry that everything is easily accessible.  We’ve gone from spread out forms of manual labor to extremely specific areas of the workforce.  This specialized labor is done using the help of machines to pick up the slack of manpower.  Humans used to have to spend their days working for survival, but now they have everything in the palm of their hands.  This is obviously so much more efficient, but there is no way to get any of that hard work back into our quick pace, mass produced lifestyle.  On the flip side of this, the improvement overall has made our food supply suffer as a result.  It was a crazy train reaction of improving agriculture, which made food more accessible, which made people live longer, which meant more people to feed, which finally led to a need for more output, which hurt the quality of our food.  This means that we live in a world where food quality has gone down and on top of it there is no need to exert energy on physical activity on a daily basis.  While we will live longer we are more likely to suffer from a deadly disease later in life.  We’ve ironically decreased our quality of life as a result of continuously trying to perfect our quality of life.

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.

With this need for the gym and the overwhelming growth in popularity of the fitness industry, you could make a case there are underlying motivators other than just health.  While going to the gym offers many health benefits, we see that there are also other unwanted factors such as compulsive exercise or severe critique of one’s body image.  The physiological advantages of working out can often take over a person’s life as they are addicted to these results.  This is relatable to anorexia nervosa where a person associates the act of starving themselves with the result of looking “better”.  At the start these two mindsets have positive goals such as losing some weight toning up the body, however those who struggle with excessive exercise can run their bodies into the ground from always chasing this look of lean muscle.

However, it is tough to distinguish what determines an exercise addiction.  According to Compulsive Exercise: links, risks and challenges faced, “The amount of weekly exercise is not an indicator of compulsive patterns, as the definition states that it is the physical, psychological, and social harm resulting from the exercise that is important.”  Therefore,  simply working out extremely often does not automatically categorize you as someone with compulsive exercise addiction.  There needs to be a correlation between the amount you are working out and the reason or motivation behind it.  For many, working out is a hobby and something that is apart of their routine.  However, it becomes a problem when someone is working out because they feel if they fail to workout they , in their eyes, will look physically unattractive.  This is where energy can be depleted, increased stress on the heart, chronic injury and many others occur.  In the case of repeated exercise, your body is not able to recover which can be detrimental long term.  A study was conducted on marathon runners to compare their blood samples against an average person’s.  Heart Risk Associated With Extreme Exercise found that biomarkers associated with heart damage were in the samples of the long distance runners.  These are able to be naturally repaired after some time, but if continued you can permanently scar your heart.  Research related to these studies also suggest that sudden cases of cardiac arrest were associated with over exercising.  Exercise can also be very counterintuitive.  Many seek the benefits of exercise which are increased energy and blood flow throughout the day, which can help to be more productive and to feel better.  However, when over exercising a common occurrence is completely burning yourself out which in turn stops you from exercising.  What a lot of people who struggle with this addiction will then do is when they get back they try to go even harder to make up for lost time, but then find themselves in a vicious cycle of trying to stay healthy.

Moreover, just as we see people trying to slim down through cardiovascular exercise we also see the opposite in muscle dysmorphia.  Bodybuilding is something that has become increasingly popular since the golden age somewhere between the 50’s and 70’s.  This has inspired many young adults to become infatuated with sculpting their bodies.  This however, can be taken much too far.  In a state of what many call “reverse anorexia” an individual will try to get their muscles as big and toned as possible.  In the article Is Bodybuilding a Disorder, they refer to this issue saying, “People who suffer from anorexia believe they are too big, while bodybuilders believe they are too small… both of which affect their perception of their body image.”  Both of these are just as dangerous, because if not treated they could do serious damage to internal organs.  This dysmorphia through exercise is also mentally taxing as many cases show that individuals will cut out their family, careers and other interests in order to satisfy their desire to be physically appealing.  Looking at this through a very blunt lens, we could make the case that these types of disorders wouldn’t have existed if we did not eliminate physical activity as a society.  If everyone was getting enough exercise from their daily routine, then there wouldn’t be such a fixation on trying to starve ourselves and workout profusely to make up for this lack of activity.  Many try to solve the problem of inactive lifestyles for horrible habits such as these and take drastic measures in order to achieve the physique of someone who is active daily.  We learn from these types of conditions that the body needs both rest and activity to maintain health.

In conclusion, the health benefits of physical activity are evident and should be taken into account by our society in its entirety.  Human labor and effort is what this amazing infrastructure we live in was created from.  We are meant to move around and be productive and use our energy that has sustained us as a species for thousands of years to keep our bodies from breaking down.  It may seem counterintuitive to go to the gym and use weights and machines to physically exert ourselves, only to have physical health alone as the result.  However, this is a necessary sacrifice we have to make as we’ve done so well as a society to rid ourselves of inconvenient and difficult labor.  It is a bittersweet reality, but one we as individuals have to come to terms with as we live our lives.  


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