Is your lifestyle making you weak?


Chronic stress, excessive sitting, not enough sleep, poor food… there’s quite enough cause in our modern lifestyles for concern. Statistics show startling increases in macular degeneration, which leads to blindness, not to mention a full panoply of chronic diseases we hear so much about. And now, studies reveal that our kids have weak bones from not enough activity and crooked teeth from soft food. How is your lifestyle making you weak?

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None of these studies say anything definitive about adults, but just to be safe, I suggest we all:

  • Get off our a**. Move more—low-level activity all day long is the goal—and walk longer distances.

  • Chew more. It improves cognitive function. And apparently the motion increases blood circulation to the brain by as much as 20 percent, which is enough for me to reconsider chewing gum.

  • Get cold. I’ve already mentioned the benefits of cold showers. Don’t hesitate to try ice baths or just going outside in the cold. It makes you tougher.

  • Play with your kids outside. Playing is good for us in so many ways, from stress relief to improved cognitive function. Trying to keep up with the kids beats the gym any day.

I already mentioned the article on the BBC website called How modern life is transforming the human skeleton in my recent post on our bones. The same article highlighted two other studies.

German anthropologist Christiane Scheffler at the University of Potsdam found that children’s skeletons are becoming more fragile every year and brought to light a link between skeletal strength and how much walking they were doing.

The explanation is very clear in the BBC article:

It’s already well known that every time we use our muscles, we help to increase the mass of the bones that support them. “If you use them again and again, they build more bone tissue, which is measured as a higher density and bigger girth of bone,” says Scheffler. The children’s shrinking skeletons look like a straightforward adaptation to modern life, since it doesn’t make sense to grow bone that you don’t need.

But there was one surprise lurking in the data: walking was the only type of exercise that seemed to have any impact. 

And though no one has looked at whether the link holds up in adults, it’s likely that the same rules apply: it’s not enough to simply hit the gym a couple of times a week without also walking long distances.

Should we give up smoothies?

The article also pointed out that our modern food is soft and requires less chewing, which makes weaker muscles, so jaws don’t develop as well, making a heyday for orthodontists.

“Right now, what the research is showing is that having a slightly more biomechanically tough diet, particularly in children, might be useful for counteracting some of the imbalance between the way that our teeth grow and develop and push through.”

I’d say it’s time to go back to real food, as close as possible to its original form. Raw fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds and meat all demand more chewing.

Anne TragerBody Hacks