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June 18, 2012 10:58 PM   Subscribe

Rapid Increase of Worldwide Laziness as Global Physical Activity Levels Decline. According to this study, most of the world just sits around getting fat now.
posted by twoleftfeet (79 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm going to kick off discussion from a techno-triumphalist angle: why aren't physical video games, from Dance Dance Revolution to the Wii to the Kinect, helping with this issue?
posted by Apocryphon at 11:06 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


This sounds like good news as far as carbon dioxide emissions go.
posted by crapmatic at 11:09 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because they are a tiny fraction of video game play.
posted by Justinian at 11:09 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Laziness would not have been the word I would have chosen. Very value-laden. Sedentariness is the word used in the primary source.
posted by wilful at 11:09 PM on June 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


I love that I had to view an ad for a free bean bag from Microsoft before being allowed to read that first article.
posted by raysmj at 11:10 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


In today's society, people have less money for the gym.

What we need in society isn't just universal healthcare, but universal gym membership.
why aren't physical video games, from Dance Dance Revolution to the Wii to the Kinect, helping with this issue?
Probably it's like home gym equipment: people buy them, then throw them in the closet/turn them into clothes racks in like a week.
posted by delmoi at 11:12 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


This sounds like good news as far as carbon dioxide emissions go.

Huh? The CO2 you exhale is all from 'renewable' sources that were pulled out of the air while the plants were growing. Only if you were eating food synthesized directly from crude oil (which I think might be possible) would it be a problem.

In fact, not only do fit people do more walking, but in theory people who physically weigh less will improve fuel efficiency in cars.
posted by delmoi at 11:14 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


What? I don't like to sweat.
posted by LordSludge at 11:19 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


In today's society, people have less money for the gym.

For decent food, too.
posted by mediated self at 11:19 PM on June 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


The article suggests that gym memberships and Wii/Dance/Kinect are not really relevant - the main factor is that the everyday 'work' of living has gone down,

More jobs are more sedentary and require less movement. At home, how people cook and clean has also changed dramatically.
...
In some countries, physical activity has sharply declined in recent years due to the shift from farming to manufacturing. China and Brazil had the largest declines due to this shift
posted by jacalata at 11:20 PM on June 18, 2012


\o/

Yay!

Oooh. Raised my arms a bit quickly there. I may need to go for a lie down.
posted by zoo at 11:46 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


We'd all be better served if our vistas weren't clogged up with car-only suburban tract housing, zero real options for pedestrian or bicycle commuting, and a culture that ghettoizes physical activity to shitty gyms.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:46 PM on June 18, 2012 [35 favorites]


The nerve! Who is up for a class action defamation suit?
posted by Cranberry at 11:49 PM on June 18, 2012


Sometimes I get overwhelmed by this problem. People don't move their bodies anymore. It worries me. It's a depressing feeling.

I lie down until the feeling goes away, then I feel better.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:50 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wait, does this mean i'll get my very own Wall-E now?
posted by littlesq at 1:07 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The world is currently only 18.5 million pounds over weight. That's not too bad really.
posted by srboisvert at 1:09 AM on June 19, 2012


Don't watch so much TV, you said. You'll rot your brain, you said. Why don't you read a book, you said.

So I did. Thousands of books, tens of thousands of hours...

...ALL LYING DOWN.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:22 AM on June 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


I agree with delmoi that society needs universal gym usage, including state subsidized gyms. I'd imagine the major progress comes as gyms replace bars and cafes as hangout places, maybe due to more sociable exercises.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:01 AM on June 19, 2012


tl;dr
posted by chavenet at 2:05 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some people call it "getting fat". I prefer to think of it as "carbon sequestering".
posted by dephlogisticated at 2:08 AM on June 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


why aren't physical video games, from Dance Dance Revolution to the Wii to the Kinect, helping with this issue?

Because they don't get you out of the house and away from the snacks and sugary drinks and a quick flop on the couch.

Physical video games should use headsets, maps, and augmented reality to make the world into a multi-player video game that people want to get out into. (Because apparently just going outside is no longer enough.) Everyone who plays gets a certain number of points for climbing a certain hill or for doing a certain circuit in a certain time. Game designers could examine local geographies and concoct alternate realities about actual locations, and they could give higher points for going farther away from conveniences and for negotiating more difficult routes. You might have to climb to the top of a certain real hill in town, do a certain dance with invisible (except to you) dance partners on the top of the hill, and then run back down the hill to get points. You might have to investigate certain historical sites and answer questions about them by, for example, racing with invisible partners to the easternmost bastion of a fort and then to the oldest gate or the gate nearest the cemetery. You might need to speak and understand French with the sexy ghost who haunts the tower you need to climb in search of clues that will appear only to people playing the game in the right places and responding to prompts with the right actions. Or you might just need the sight and sound of a physical trainer to make you go out into the park and exercise for its own sake, but with a bunch of other local people on the same schedule, with all of you listening to the same music and seeing and hearing the same trainer.
posted by pracowity at 2:32 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Turn off your computer.

Go outside for at least 30 minutes.
posted by mr.ersatz at 2:33 AM on June 19, 2012


Apocryphon: "why aren't physical video games, from Dance Dance Revolution to the Wii to the Kinect, helping with this issue?"

I played Wii Boxing once. Do you have any idea how sore my arms were the next day?!

Okay, so I've played a lot more of the other Wii Sports games since then. I just simply wasn't prepared for Wii Boxing's stresses on my arms - abruptly jerking your arms out and back. The other games are more graceful. But I can imagine many people playing an active game once or twice, feeling sore afterwards, and not playing again. Also, I doubt that an out-of-shape person can play, say, DDR, for very long at a time. And that may discourage them too. It's a pretty hyperactive game. I have a friend who's a dance teacher who can't even get the hang of it.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:39 AM on June 19, 2012


Physical video games should use headsets, maps, and augmented reality to make the world into a multi-player video game that people want to get out into.

The iPhone app "Zombies, Run!" is a rudimentary start on this sort of game. I would love to play a real Zombies Run game with aug reality - until I get hit by a real car running from a fake zombie, I guess. But it'd be fun and a good reason to run.
posted by jacanj at 3:01 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can only speak for myself, but it's the hours and hours of soul draining busywork associated with my current classes that's destroyed my physical activity. I used to keep a pretty regular schedule for walking, but spending 10 - 12 hours a day in a classroom/hospital/wherever, having to get up about 10 hours from when I get home, I'm just wiped out.

I think this overworkedness is endemic to US society. Maybe people are fatter because they work too hard, not because they're lazy.

Plus, it's like 100 degrees outside.
posted by byanyothername at 3:11 AM on June 19, 2012 [19 favorites]


Laziness would not have been the word I would have chosen. Very value-laden. Sedentariness is the word used in the primary source.

I agree, but this is where the English language falls short. There are many ways to be sedentary, not all of them volitional. People confined to wheelchairs or beds due to accidents or illnesses are sedentary, but many of them would be active otherwise were it not for these constraints.

We need a word for volitional sedentariness. Nearly every synonym for laziness (indolent, torpid and the like) comes with baggage.
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:42 AM on June 19, 2012


I want to type a longer answer to this but my hands are already so tired from the strain of moving the cheetos to my mouth...
posted by wolfdreams01 at 4:14 AM on June 19, 2012


I just signed up for my first Ironman, so this should even out pretty quick.
posted by psoas at 4:25 AM on June 19, 2012


Relevant
posted by lalochezia at 4:27 AM on June 19, 2012


Don't watch so much TV, you said. You'll rot your brain, you said. Why don't you read a book, you said.

So I did. Thousands of books, tens of thousands of hours...

...ALL LYING DOWN.

I swear there was a thread here about reading while walking (and apologising to traffic lights).
posted by ersatz at 4:43 AM on June 19, 2012


Because we're stressed out as fuck. Most people get 2 weeks vacation, 4 if you're lucky. We work a minimum of 7.5 hours and probably about 1.5 hours commute. Add another 8 hours for sleep (give or take) and then taking care of kids and eating like crap because there is no time. So when do we have time to exercise?

If I owned a company, I would have mandatory recess----access to an in-house gym with basket ball court, volleyball court, etc. Everyone would have to do 1 hour of recess during work. I also found it helpful when we had a full kitchen at a an agency I worked at. I ate better knowing I could cook some things.
posted by stormpooper at 5:02 AM on June 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Turn off your computer.

Go outside for at least 30 minutes


I felt smug about this for a minute, add I'm just about to go out, until I remembered that I'm going out to a cafe where I'll eat cake. Damn.
posted by knapah at 5:33 AM on June 19, 2012


If I owned a company, I would have mandatory recess----access to an in-house gym with basket ball court, volleyball court, etc. Everyone would have to do 1 hour of recess during work.

They've started a cross-fit program where I work, and the folks who go enjoy it, but it takes up over an hour a day three days a week, when pretty much all department heads & knowers-of-things are out of pocket, first thing in the morning. It's killing my productivity dead over and over again during those hours. I do physical work, at least half the day, and I joke with them that I lift much smaller weights, but do a lot more reps (The other day I lifted 2000 5-ounce t-shirts in 3 hours). The thing that bugs me, is I'm over here working hard to keep the place afloat while they're all running around the parking lot, waving their arms in the air. Do it in off hours, please.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:41 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


We need a word for volitional sedentariness.

Napping?

Jokes aside, I'm sure that stress is a factor. You work a long day meeting tight deadlines and for a company that treats you poorly, then you have a long commute in traffic, then a mad scramble to feed the kids and get ready for the next day. Your stress is going to impact your food choices, your leisure choices, and your big-picture choices.

But the article is making an interesting point about how the baseline effort of living is dropping. Putting clothes in a washing machine takes about one millionth of the effort of carrying a basket of clothes down to the nearest river, washing them by hand, and carrying the (incredibly heavy) wet clothes back home. And work has changed -- most of us are sitting at a desk or standing at a cash register, not swinging a hammer. Those are huge changes, not something you can compensate for by doing DDR for half an hour.
posted by Forktine at 5:42 AM on June 19, 2012


The decline in physical activity is partly due to technology. But diet, culture, and urban planning all play a role. Eating crappy food makes you feel like crap. And cultural promotion of physical activity makes a huge difference. So does the layout of our cities. All of these factors discourage people from being active. This is obvious to anyone who has lived in healthy cities (in my case, Vancouver and Seoul and, to some extent, Toronto) as well as unhealthy ones (everywhere else I've lived). People don't have to be fat simply because we use modern technology. But we need to value physical activity, and we need to think about how our social and cultural structures discourage it, and then we need to change them. Frankly, this would do more for mental health than all the SSRIs in the world. But ours is a culture that thinks as little as possible about non-market values. So we look for a quick fix. But there isn't one.
posted by smorange at 6:13 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Turn off your computer. Go outside for at least 30 minutes.

Are you going to explain it to my boss?

If you rtfa, you'd know it's mostly a work/school issue.

One further vote for non-schooling ... they are adding up.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:14 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Agree with this totally, because when I was working in an office and would get up to talk a quick walk around the hallways to think about my work, i'd be sternly lectured about the importance of staying put in my cubicle for long blocks of time.
posted by subdee at 6:21 AM on June 19, 2012


The world is currently only 18.5 million pounds over weight. That's not too bad really.

Isn't the world, as a closed system, the same weight? It's just that a smidge more of it is in people than would otherwise be in the form of plants and farm animals.
posted by aught at 6:25 AM on June 19, 2012


moo.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:31 AM on June 19, 2012


Do you know how hard it is to walk and read this post at the same time?
posted by Leezie at 6:46 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ride your bike to work!
posted by Brocktoon at 6:57 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


do it off hours

I dont' know about that. I think companies need to figure out ways to either hire more people or figure out the work productivity better. Most people work from their teens (even though part time) to about what? 65 to now the suggested 72? My mom died at 74. I don't feel like having one foot in the grave until I retire and die the next day. I still think if something you spend the majority of your life doing it should be smarter, happier, and healthier. Happy employees = better employees. People are miserable because of the way management manages the business (short staff, low pay, crappy product).

Viva la recess!

I work for a major health insurance co. You should see our very, very pathetic "free" gym. I joined one across the way instead.
posted by stormpooper at 7:07 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sweet, I'm set when the zombie apocalypse happens then! You don't have to be the fastest, but you just need to outrun the other guy. That'll be much easier to do if everyone else is fatter.
posted by astapasta24 at 7:08 AM on June 19, 2012


The decline in physical activity is partly due to technology.
Yes, I think it's a feature, not a bug. There are all these 'labor-saving' devices to do all our work for us. It's the world our TVs have promised us.

And I wouldn't go to a gym even if it were free, but I've got hills and a park behind my office and a pond near my house and lots of places to ride a bike.
posted by MtDewd at 7:09 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just waiting for my scooter and my Big Gulp.
posted by cross_impact at 7:10 AM on June 19, 2012


I spent yesterday shovelling building rubble into a wheel barrow and then emptying into a skip bin, for like six or seven hours. And Thursday and Friday afternoon was hitting things with hammers, crowbars, and hammers and crowbars to get them to fall of the wall, so that I could later shovel them into a wheel barrow and them empty them into a skip bin.

I've earned this fucking cake.

n.b. 'cake' is actually beer, a stout to be exact.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:16 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Back in the late 90s/early 2000s when i was reading lots of Terence McKenna and taking psychedelic substances, I posited that when Terence talked about the human race being more plant like in order to evolve to the next level, while he was talking about mind, I already saw sedentariness as one of the foundations of this "plant-like" evolution. I also saw rhizomatic networks and solar power as part of it too. Alas, we're still struggling to get proper solar power up and running and our networks are less rhizome and more tree trunk.

But we got that sedentary part down!
posted by symbioid at 7:22 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


See also: Is fat shaming a liberal value?
posted by symbioid at 7:25 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Symbioid, that's an interesting point, and reminds me of Houllebecq's 'The Possibility of an Island', where (spoilers, though seriously if you were going to read this you should have by now) the future humans basically hang out in their bedrooms chatting on LiveJournal, masturbating every now and then.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:28 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


mr.ersatz: "Turn off your computer.

Go outside for at least 30 minutes.
"

And sit in the grass and soak up the sun. Right?
posted by symbioid at 7:30 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Turn off your computer.

Go outside for at least 30 minutes.


just as soon as my ipad is done charging
posted by elizardbits at 7:38 AM on June 19, 2012


Turn off your computer.

Go outside for at least 30 minutes.

just as soon as my ipad is done charging
posted by elizardbits at 7:38 AM on June 19 [+] [!]


Get one of those solar dodads and kill two birds with one stone
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:41 AM on June 19, 2012


In today's society, people have less money for the gym.

What we need in society isn't just universal healthcare, but universal gym membership.


Ha! What an absurd idea.. really going to "The Gym" is the fake version of having a physically demanding life. Its what a certain segment of society does to combat the problem detailed in the article.

Personally I despise the gym, and can't help but think "why don't you do some real exercise. You know like playing sports, walking around town, cycling to work." Sure some people seem to like running in place while watching TV, and paying for the privilege but I"ve always thought it was absurd.

I do however quite enjoy a good game of football (soccer) or a game of squash.
posted by mary8nne at 7:41 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I propose we use biomass as the metric to measure the success of a species.
posted by Behemoth at 7:48 AM on June 19, 2012


Personally I despise the gym, and can't help but think "why don't you do some real exercise. You know like playing sports, walking around town, cycling to work." Sure some people seem to like running in place while watching TV, and paying for the privilege but I"ve always thought it was absurd.

Oh god yes, the existence of the 'exercise bike' confuses me endlessly. There are already bikes that require you to do exercise. They're called bikes. Also you get to go fast and see things outside your house.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:03 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm going to kick off discussion from a techno-triumphalist angle: why aren't physical video games, from Dance Dance Revolution to the Wii to the Kinect, helping with this issue?

Because people still spend the rest of their days (in fact, most of their lives) sitting in chairs and being ferried about in automobiles, not moving themselves under their own power as evolution has designed us to do.

Doesn't matter a whit what you do in your video-game time if the rest of your life is spent sedentary.
Both body AND brain are wired together to respond to movement with strength and health.
They respond to chairs with weakness and death.

So says the evolutionary triumphalist.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:14 AM on June 19, 2012


I think this overworkedness is endemic to US society. Maybe people are fatter because they work too hard, not because they're lazy.

I totally agree - my last job was 18 miles away from my house, but an hour commute on a major highway because of traffic. I also worked late or came in early most days, so it was nearly impossible to find time to exercise, let alone plan and prepare healthy meals.

My current job doesn't have a long commute or require working earlier or later than 8 to 5, but I am starting my own business, so I usually go home and work another 5 or 6 hours. Unfortunately most of the work is at a computer, so I'm stuck being sedentary.

We all work too much to have time to focus on our health.
posted by elvissa at 8:34 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think the long-term answer is trying to emulate the rigors of a non-sedentary life through exercise. There's a reason we avoid manual labor; manual labor sucks. I did manual labor for years before I ended up in a cubicle, and I'll take the cubicle any day. Sure, it's gonna kill me, but a life of manual labor kills you a lot faster.

We're creatures of the mind. We've got these brains, unlike anything else in the known universe, that allow us to think in unique and powerful ways. We're transforming our world with them, astonishingly quickly, in ways that we can't even predict they're happening so fast. We've got the most complex, sophisticated communications network ever devised, and it's changing and improving on a daily basis.

The riches that we have available to us, in terms of entertainment, information, collaboration, art, science, music... they're unprecedented. The things we can create and know are no longer limited by our physical locales. All of the pleasures that used to be part of the world, being with loved ones, playing music, doing art, eating good food, creating new things, they're all still here, often enhanced by this amazing access to information. And new forms of entertainment keep getting made, and they're awesome. It's a glorious new world.

And we have to give it up for hours a week to go grunt and sweat mindlessly in a smelly gym. What a colossal waste.

I'm not down on those of you who enjoy exercise; if you're having fun with it, great. For some of us, most of us, I think, exercise is awful. Physically painful, completely unrewarding. Whatever it is that makes you feel good when you exercise, we don't have it. This is from experience; I've driven myself to the point where I was fantastically fit, and it sucked. Every single exercise session, I kept hoping that I'd start enjoying it, maybe this time. Didn't happen. Ever. And from what I can tell, most people are like that.

Even if we were able to get everyone motivated to exercise regularly... Let's theorize for a moment that about half the people in the world need to start exercising more; three hours a week. I'm saying half to discount those who already do manual labor for a living (and those of you who think manual labor keeps you trim and fit haven't been to a job site lately), and those who are fortunate enough to enjoy incorporating physical activities into their lives. Let's say we get them all started exercising regularly.

We lose 1,986,630 years of productive human activity per week.

Seriously. Almost two million years a week, if half the human race spends three hours a week exercising. Want to scale it down? Okay, we institute this program in the US: lose 90,534 years for every week it runs.

Physical considerations are also massive. I live in a city where it's over 100 degrees out five months a year. Getting outside to exercise is not healthy here, it's suicidal. Given that ideal weather is only year-round in a few spots, how do we accommodate the millions of people who need a few hours a week worth of space, equipment and (hopefully) showers? If a lot of them can't afford membership at the Y ($47 a month isn't trivial to a lot of people)? And there aren't enough Ys to accommodate them all?

At some point, we're going to have to face the reality that the world has changed. That most of us don't need bodies that evolved to haul and toil sixteen hours a day anymore. We're going to have to adapt to that somehow. It may mean finding something that's actually productive to do with all that time and effort; it may mean finding a way to be more healthy while living the sedentary lives that the world has been building towards.

People haven't suddenly become lazy; they're working harder than ever. The type of work they do, the type of lives they live, have changed radically. No amount of shaming, no images of happy fit people playing volleyball in the sun, can overcome the fact that exercise sucks, it's painful, it's wasteful, and a whole lot of people can't afford the investment in time and infrastructure that it takes to maintain.

Maybe it's time to focus on what it takes to avoid the negative consequences of a sedentary lifestyle, instead. Accept that most people aren't going to exercise, and start focusing on figuring out what to do to keep everyone healthy.
posted by MrVisible at 8:37 AM on June 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


We lose 1,986,630 years of productive human activity per week.

Seriously. Almost two million years a week, if half the human race spends three hours a week exercising. Want to scale it down? Okay, we institute this program in the US: lose 90,534 years for every week it runs.


You know, you're right! In fact, if we could figure out a way to get rid of sleep, we could recapture (300 million...carry the 2...) 2.4 billion hours every night of productive human activity! That's upwards of 9 trillion hours a year!

I'm sure it's just a matter of focusing on avoiding the negative consequences of not sleeping.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:45 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's upwards of 9 trillion hours a year!

Or upwards of 900 billion hours a year. Sorry, I didn't get enough sleep last night. Damn sedentary lifestyle!
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:47 AM on June 19, 2012


Sleep is, unfortunately, unavoidable. Exercise can be avoided easily.

I'd love to figure out how to not sleep, though. Then I might even have time to exercise.
posted by MrVisible at 8:53 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's all about the work/life balance. If your work is sedentary (which is likely for many mefites, I'd think), you only have your free time, your "life" to do all the things you love- run around with your kids in the yard, go for hikes, watch movies, read more metafilter, go out to or cook a nice dinner... So the more energy you have on the "life" side of the balance, the more energy you have left to do active things instead of more sedentary things.

So it's true that the nature of work has changed, but I think that's ok. Modern processes are allowing us to do more work in less time- great! However, rather than just asking for more and more, workplaces need to allow for shorter or more broken-up work schedules, and jobs need to take less time/energy from your real life.
posted by Secretariat at 9:13 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm certain that once we find the right blend of chemicals, we'd be getting rid of sleep to have an edge in our post-human global economy. Productivity, people!

But yeah, "universal gym membership" is such small thinking. How about mandating that everyone has to do one day of paid (at their normal work rate) manual labor. Not only would we get physical activity, if we did it in the fields we can both commune with nature and abolish agricultural subsidies.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:26 AM on June 19, 2012


What we need in society isn't just universal healthcare, but universal gym membership.

This is a joke, right?

Gyms are too far away. People don't have time to burn to commute to gyms. Why don't we just mandate that treadmills need to be subsidized so people can exercise in the comfort in their own homes?

Yeah..that's right. It was mentioned up there - people will suddenly have very expensive but subsidized clothes rack. Same thing with gym memberships if we don't address the reason why people don't use them in the first place.

Not to mention that I honestly think gyms are a racket. Sure - it's nice to have when it's raining outside. Or when you live in a place with harsh weather. But it is not mandatory.
posted by 7life at 9:37 AM on June 19, 2012


The idea that manual labor and gym time are interchangeable (let alone that manual labor is superior to gym time) is laughable.

With manual labor, the focus is on getting a specific task completed, hopefully without injury. Chronic wear accumulates, and loads/rep ranges are not properly calibrated for ideal health benefits.

In the gym, we (can) focus specifically on improving health, injury resistance, strength, flexibility, etc. It's certainly not sufficient to fully compensate for poor eating habits or posture but it's a hell of a lot better than manual labor.

As diet is necessary to living and good health, so is sleeping and exercise. The most effective exercise will largely be using purpose-designed gym equipment.

So far as gyms being a racket: Sure, if you follow the PlanetFitness model of "monthly fees, users never improve, discourage even moderate weights, encourage excessive use of cardio machines". You're absolutely right for cardio - the only purpose is to provide a nice indoor area. But cardio really, really isn't sufficient for good health. It doesn't have high enough resistance to maintain bone density or muscle mass, both of which are essential for avoiding injury - especially while crossing middle age.
posted by Neuffy at 9:40 AM on June 19, 2012


People haven't suddenly become lazy; they're working harder than ever.

You haven't been to my office lately.

Let's theorize for a moment that about half the people in the world need to start exercising more; three hours a week. I'm saying half to discount those who already do manual labor for a living (and those of you who think manual labor keeps you trim and fit haven't been to a job site lately), and those who are fortunate enough to enjoy incorporating physical activities into their lives. Let's say we get them all started exercising regularly.

We lose 1,986,630 years of productive human activity per week.


I'd wager that most workers are "productive" less than 60% of the time they are "at work." This comment? QED.

One of the major massive worldview shift events would be a shortening of the work week to 20 hours. We could do it easily in one generation.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:47 AM on June 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Actually, now that I think about it, the "working harder than ever" comment should be addressed:

General consensus is that humans do not sustain high productivity for longer periods of time while working hours greater than 35-45 hours per week. A sprint for a few weeks is fine, but as fatigue builds up productivity drops due to increased mistakes and slowed mental processes. We do not see increased productivity by running sustained 80-hour work weeks, but only "productivity theater".
posted by Neuffy at 9:53 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not advocating that people spend those 1,986,630 years per week working; I just think it's a waste to spend them sweating and straining in unpleasant pursuit of fitness. We already don't have enough work for the people of the world to do. And while I'd love to see shorter workweeks enacted, it's not going to happen in the US anytime soon. We have a bizarre puritanistic work ethic that keeps us slaving away even when there's nothing to do, and we see laziness as the ultimate character defect. Whether we're working productively or not, the world is telling us we need to work more, and so we do. We're barely making enough to get by, so we're not in much of a position to argue that making us work more doesn't produce more. We just put in the hours.

I'd rather see people who hate exercise doing something they love to instead. Spending time with their families. Seeing movies. Playing music. Making art. Lounging on the couch. Exercise, for those of us who hate it, is a miserable waste of our time. Scale it up, and the waste is stunning.

Someone needs to come up with an exercise program that involves both cardio and resistance. They need to set it up so that it's not going to be corrupted into the profitable but useless model that pervades most gyms these days. They need to make it accessible to people in all age ranges, and all levels of beginning physical ability. They need to make it fun enough that you can convince people to make the necessary sacrifices to devote a few hours a week to it, despite all the pressures of daily life that make that nearly impossible. They need to provide facilities for not only doing the training, but cleaning up afterwards. They need to make it applicable to people from Alaska to Arizona. They need to make it affordable for every income bracket, without that making it unpalatable outside the lower incomes. And then they need to scale it up to meet the needs of, conservatively, 264 million people in the United States alone.

Until that's feasible, we'd better start looking at what we can do to support the sedentary way of living that our culture demands. Getting uffish about people not exercising isn't helpful. People aren't exercising, and they're not exercising for reasons that make tons of sense. No time. No access to facilities. No training. No money. Unless you find a way to address these underlying causes, you're going to have to deal with a sedentary society.

Both are massive undertakings. Neither is helped by the current mindset that people should just exercise, dammit, while ignoring the difficult context of the issue completely.
posted by MrVisible at 10:36 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A racket might be too strong of a word. But I do think gym is overrated for both cardio and weight training.

It is like a GPS system for runners. For a select elite ones out there, yeah...it will help them with their training if they are to quantify exact speed, distance, etc.
For regular joe schmoes, it is nice to have. But needed? No.

Same thing with weights. If you want to be able to bench 400lbs - sure, gym is crucial. Or if you need to spot train a certain muscle group for whatever reason. But if you simply want to gain strength to the degree that most people are shooting for (and functional too), you only need your body and the proper techniques. And perhaps a pull up bar.

I have nothing against gyms. They are useful to some degree. But I do have an issue with the mindset that gyms are absolutely crucial for people to start exercising.
posted by 7life at 11:54 AM on June 19, 2012


Television for the stupid, computers for the smart. Mesmerize them!
posted by deo rei at 11:57 AM on June 19, 2012


The thing that bugs me, is I'm over here working hard to keep the place afloat while they're all running around the parking lot, waving their arms in the air. Do it in off hours, please.

I do not mean this personally, but there it is. Right there. This attitude encapsulates in a two sentences the root cause of the problem discussed in the OP. It demonstrates a belittling of non-market, non-commodifiable values in favor of market values. Those folks are just 'waving their arms' while I'm trying to get things done! How dare they challenge the status quo in favor of their personal well being! This way of thinking created the mess we are in and I think will be very very difficult to change because addressing it would require a paradigm shift in the way we live.

Advanced western societies are already the product of a values system that relegates fitness and personal health to "off hours please" and it isn't working. Partly because many of us don't have as many off hours as we used to with which to include a fitness regiment. In the US, for example, we are already working more hours now than we did in the 1970s. The other part of the equation is that over the same period it should come as no surprise that those hours are worked in jobs that have become more sedentary - so at the same time that we are working more we are working-out less on the job. Nor should you be concerned with your co-workers taking an hour or so for their health, as there is really no evidence that increased hours add much to the bottom line. Especially when worker productivity is already at all-time highs along with corporate profits.

The fact that the majority of us now spend most of our waking hours working in jobs that are sedentary should signal that we need to rethink the nature of our time at work, reorienting it to include time dedicated not just to profit-making, but to improving the lives of the workers themselves. After all, what else is work for but to, in pretense at least, improve the quality of lives for the people working in some way? Your co-workers should be lauded for their efforts to improve their health at work and their efforts to change the system that causes so many health problems. At present, fitness needs to be "vertically integrated" in the work experience. Whether or not it will be is another story...but step in the right direction should be highlighted...not dismissed.

We lose 1,986,630 years of productive human activity per week.

I think you already realize that hours worked and productive human activity are not linked in a linear fashion, so I will spare the evidence. It goes without saying that human beings are not necessarily units of input towards an increase in the bottom line.

Every single exercise session, I kept hoping that I'd start enjoying it, maybe this time. Didn't happen. Ever. And from what I can tell, most people are like that.

Now while I enjoy exercise very much, I completely understand your frustration and understand that it does seem as if most people do not. So to your point about addressing this inconvenient truth I think we should change things in such a way that physical activity gets into your life automatically...the way it used to through work, through walking, through a more physical life in general.

How to do this is the rub. I think there are myriad ways to do this - more walkable, bikeable cities with better urban planning based around local, walkable commercial centers. Most of all though, I think it begins at work - standing desks or sit / stand desks, shorter working hours, at-work fitness centers and programs...time in the work-day not just for lunch...but for fitness or activity too. Prioritizing activity as well as profit and understanding that the two are linked. Healthy, happy people make for better employees.

Personally this is all a pipe dream for now. At my workplace I need a doctors note to get a standing desk. WTF? Some coworkers live 2 miles away and DRIVE to work because they don't "want to get sweaty" biking or walking and have no time / place to change at work in the morning or feel uncomfortable changing in the bathroom. Facepalm. Not to mention that our "standard day" is a 10 hour day, 12 is not unsual at all and usually occurs at least a few times a week...all that time spent just sitting at the computer while most people will tell you they only really put in a good 5 hours of hard focused work in a day. It's this sort of backwards thinking that contributes to the problem. It's cultural. It's systemic. It's typical...and it really gets me down.

Unfortunately the only way I see to really reverse the trends we have been seeing over the last 50 years would be fundamentally at odds with the notion of unsuppressed economic growth and would take a sea-change in our cultural thinking. Until then I'm lucky I enjoy the gym.
posted by jnnla at 12:37 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Personally I despise the gym, and can't help but think "why don't you do some real exercise.

My residence doesn't have a lap pool, nor do I have much around--or the room to keep stuff around--for strength training. But the lap pool ... If you could contribute funds for one, just one long lane, I would thank you. It would have to be filled with salt-water and not chlorine-clogged, and having the pool jut out onto a hill or cliff or something (a la the pool I saw in "The Limey" with Peter Fonda, which had me slobbering) would be especially cool.
posted by raysmj at 2:07 PM on June 19, 2012


This way of thinking created the mess we are in and I think will be very very difficult to change because addressing it would require a paradigm shift in the way we live.

You know, my comment you were responding to was an unnecessarily cranky and negative comment, (mostly driven by the fact that I don't like the crossfit culture in particular) and I apologize. I s'pose were I given the option of sleeping in those three mornings a week, I'd be less resentful about it, and I should probably get over myself.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:23 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seemed like it'd been a while (a week? two? more??) since we had a big old fat hate post on MetaFilter. You guys never let me down!
posted by edheil at 3:08 PM on June 19, 2012


MrVisible: "If a lot of them can't afford membership at the Y ($47 a month isn't trivial to a lot of people)?"

Okay so this is not a magical fix for all our problems, but I know my local YMCA offers discounted memberships for those who are low-income and are willing to prove it. The application, last I saw it, even asks "how much do you want to pay per month?" Not that they're guaranteed to accept what you want to pay, but it's something.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:39 PM on June 19, 2012


raysmj, you might want to spend a night at some of these hotels.
posted by jacalata at 5:17 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


We're creatures of the mind. We've got these brains, unlike anything else in the known universe, that allow us to think in unique and powerful ways. We're transforming our world with them, astonishingly quickly, in ways that we can't even predict they're happening so fast. We've got the most complex, sophisticated communications network ever devised, and it's changing and improving on a daily basis.

Jack Lalanne had something quite relevant to say about those who try to cultivate the mind while ignoring the body.

Summary: You can't treat your body like shit, take a pill, and make it all better. Money can't buy health and strength, no matter how much cash one throws at it. Second, to cultivate the mind and neglect the body is to think that the mind and body are separable, and that's a complete and utter fallacy. SO SAYS SCIENCE.

Srsly, the human brain evolved to PROCESS MOVEMENT. Exercise primes the brain for learning and the body for health and excellence. That's how the brain grows new neurons and rewires itself. PLANTS DON'T HAVE BRAINS BECAUSE THEY DON'T MOVE.

You wanna be a vegetable, stay in your chair. But it seems creepy, wrong, and against that which made us human to hold that up as something to celebrate while waiting for the labcoats to come up with the "Make me not sick and weak w/out having to move" injection. You wanna let your neurons degenerate and rot, settle back a little deeper into that overstuffed couch.

You wanna do your brain a righteous, find some activity you enjoy that gets you up and sweating while moving under your own power every day. The fact that the body responds positively to daily exercise is almost secondary to what it does for the brain.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:05 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


PBZM, holding up abstemious monastic physical fitness gurus as examples that people might be able to emulate, and EXCORIATING PEOPLE IN ALL CAPS is exactly what we need to solve this global societal development. Why haven't we seen it before?

Jack LaLanne worked out for two hours a day in his two home gyms and his pool. His nutritional advice includes "if it tastes good, spit it out." Do you really think that's a program we can adopt as a nation?

Seriously, the article in the OP is talking about how vast societal changes have been forcing a sedentary lifestyle on the population. It's going to take a vast societal change to head that off, or to forestall the damage that it's going to do.

Do you really think that somehow you're going to scold everyone who's sedentary into making the sacrifices that are necessary to exercise regularly? Keeping in mind that it's the first time in human history that we've even needed such a program? That nothing like a nationwide exercise program has ever actually been enacted, let alone succeeded?

The need for exercise in a majority of the population is a new societal phenomenon, and we definitely need to address it. The one thing that has been tried is telling people sternly that they should exercise, so now at least we know of one method that doesn't work. It seems like it's time to consider other alternatives.

Or, if it makes you feel better, keep blustering, by all means. I hear it's good for you. But it completely ignores the scale of the problem, which is immense.
posted by MrVisible at 8:34 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fact that vast societal forces are pushing people towards are sedentary lifestyle does not change the raw, unsympathetic fact that all there are buckets and buckets of research that all basically point towards the conclusion A sedentary lifestyle is fundamentally unhealthy and causes the human body all manner of health problems, because the human body and brain evolved to function in the context of autonomous movement.

Call it scolding if you like, my up-thread comment certainly wasn't sugar-coated. But the bare, unambiguous fact on the ground is that people have to find a way to make sweating a part of their lifestyle and make moving under their own power a daily part of their life, or there are very negative health consequences.

How people feel about it and what they do about it, that's up to them and I sincerely wish them luck because I've been out of shape, overweight, and under strong. Leaner, stronger, and healthier is much better. But acting like the facts aren't the facts re: movement, health, and the human body won't help anybody. Nor will waiting around for the lab-coat crowd to come up with the "health pill". Because that just ain't coming.

Also, "‘Exergames’ Don’t Cure Young Couch Potatoes"
“Active” video games distributed to homes with children do not produce the increase in physical activity that naïve parents (like me) expected. That’s according to a study undertaken by the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and published early this year in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics...

They found “no evidence that children receiving the active video games were more active in general, or at any time, than children receiving the inactive video games.”

How is it possible that children who play active video games do not emerge well ahead in physical activity? One of the authors of the Pediatrics article, Anthony Barnett, an exercise physiologist who is a consultant at the University of Hong Kong, explains that the phenomenon is well known in the field.

“When you prescribe increased physical activity, overall activity remains the same because the subjects compensate by reducing other physical activities during the day,” he says.

Changing sedentary behavior is extremely difficult, says Dr. Charles T. Cappetta, an executive committee member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. “It may seem that active video games are an easy solution to getting kids off the couch,” he says. “But as this study and others show, they do no such thing...”

For physical activity that brings measurable health benefits, kids need things like real balls, real rackets and real courts.
Srsly, if I could wave a magic wand, there'd be One-wall Handball courts popping up allover Oakland and every kid would wake up with a super pinky under their pillows like the Handball Fairy visited them in the night.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:53 AM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


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