Health Care, Responsibility, and YOU (Part II)

Last week I discussed the obesity epidemic in America (if you missed it, please look below). Today I will discuss a few aspects of the obesity problem most people simply overlook.

Let us first take a look at technology. As defined “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes”. Technology has changed our lives in a great number of ways. We are able to stay connected with others on a moment to moment basis, and have the opportunity to stay up to date with world events in a seconds time. Technology has given us thousands of useful inventions (and likely thousands of useless ones), but this same technology is affecting our health.

Remember that obesity timeline I wrote about last time? Now lets do some correlating with technology. By changing the X and Y axis to represent a different field (i.e. measure technology over time instead of obesity). Does the rise of computer technology follow a similar line? How about video games, and their availability? The rise of the Internet? We can even plug in the number of television stations available and get a similar result. As each of these technologies has advanced, our waistlines have grown. In part due to the tremendous amount of time we spend using technology and the lack of time we spend using our bodies.

Medical advancements also have the potential to hurt our waistlines. The more medications, pills, surgeries, and treatments available, the less incentive the individual has to stay healthy. After all, how long will it truly be before you can get an artificial heart when your heart fails? And when that day comes, why will we continue to worry about heart disease?

Technology has also impacted us by making things easier. Think about this example. 75 years ago mowing the lawn consisted of a push mower with manual blades, years later we improved to a push mower with an engine. Next came self propelled, or even riding mowers. Today we are seeing the first operational and available robotic mowers. If you look at any activity over history, we have found ways for it to become more efficient. This is a great thing, but it comes at the cost of our bodies getting the work they need to be strong and healthy. The future will bring total automation in a great many aspects of our lives. What will happen to our bodies then?

As you can see technology has made humans more effecient and more productive, while at the same time consumed more of our time, and made us lazier. How can this be? Isn’t it a simple trade off. Saved time from technology (effeciency) = Spent time from technology (television, games, internet, etc.). In the sense of time, it might be. However, when we look at the true impact on our activity levels, we see that this simple trade off has significant implications on our daily energy usage, or caloric expenditure.

As we perform activities on a daily basis our body expends calories, and if we are doing less because of techonology our body is using less calories. Hence the importance of daily physical activity, in addition to normal everyday tasks.

To put it simply (and hypothetically), if a person is expending 350 fewer calories per day than they used to, they will have “not burned” 3500 calories every ten days. Did I mention that 3500 calories equals one pound. According to this math, this person would have gained 36.5 pounds throughout one year. Did you ever take the time to give that any thought?

Again, I will close with the same idea. Health care in this country begins with the individual, and you are the individual. Start by incorporating physical activity into your everyday life. Next week I will discuss physical activity and nutrition, and their importance in our future.