As a member of the BR Community, you are drawn towards an active, healthy lifestyle – and the benefits are apparent: you feel better, you have more energy, you have tools to effectively deal with stress, you have better sleep, etc. But can you think back to a moment when this list was not apparent? Do you remember what it was like to first buy-in to the active and healthy lifestyle?
Some of us were fortunate enough to grow up in an environment where physical activity and healthy eating was the norm. The striking reality, though, is that most people do not experience this early in life. This has created some startling figures: about one in three American children are considered either overweight or obese. What’s more, the Millennial Generation is far less active than their parents and may experience a lower life expectancy than the previous generation. This is not good. Sorry to be crass, but this is not good. I want to offer a partial explanation for these trends, because the more we understand them the better equipped we will be to reverse them.
The Patience Problem
For more than a decade, the American lifestyle has been infiltrated with lightning-fast technology and innovation. In and of itself, I find this value-neutral. Technology can keep us alive. It can help educate more people, streamline daily tasks, and offer solutions to complex problems. But for every benefit of technology, there seems to be a drawback. For the sake of this post, I want to highlight one potential detriment of technological advancement as it pertains to exercise: technology has stunted our patience. We are used to accessing information instantly. How many of you get frustrated when your phone’s internet service is a little slow? This impatience resounds a natural human desire to seek out instant pleasures. The pursuit of instant pleasure can partially explain why, despite our better knowledge, we overindulge in unhealthy foods. It can also explain why some people use drugs and alcohol. It can also explain why people choose to not exercise.
Much of this theory came from a great conversation I had with a friend and colleague, Ari Shapiro-Miller. Ari has a Masters in Clinical Psychology and works as a school counselor in Chittenden County. He also has a private practice counseling children and adolescents. Anecdotally, Ari notices that many people seek out these instant pleasures for exactly that reason: people want an immediate remedy to their stress, anxiety, or depression. What we find, though, is that to truthfully combat some of life’s inevitable demons, we must make long-term investments into our health.
This is why exercise is so important. Consistent exercise teaches us to make these long term investments. The healthier we get, the more we seek healthy behaviors – it’s like compounded interest for our physical and emotional state. There’s much more to be said here – and that we will save for another installment of Fit Today, Fit Tomorrow. I hope the foundation has been laid: trends show that we are less active today than we were a generation ago. In order to buck this trend, we must overcome our desire for instant pleasure and make an investment in our health. If we do so, we stay Fit Today, Fit Tomorrow.