What Has Changed in Health & Fitness Over the Last 30 Years?

There have been many changes in fitness over the past 30 years. It’s human nature to reminisce about times past. That’s great but lets not forget that things change as well. This is certainly true in the area of health and fitness. “If you do what you have always done, you will get the results you have always gotten” is true, but what if the situation changes? Then what used to work is no longer a viable and effect way to get the results that we want. In this article I will outline seven items that have changed over the past 30 or so years that affect the way we view health, fitness, exercise and what is considered “best”. Let’s look at some of these changes in Fitness.

1. Activity level

This change in fitness is pretty obvious. We just don’t move around as much as we used to 30 years ago.

Currently, the average sedentary person living in an urban setting takes 900-3000 steps a day. Uh… that’s a puny number! In the journal of sports medicine existing literature was pulled together to set a general guideline of what a good number of steps per day would be

The author Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke translated different physical activity into steps-per-day equivalents. A rate of fewer than 5,000 is classified as sedentary, 5,000 to 7,499 is low active, 7,500 to 9,999 is somewhat active 10,000 or more is active and 12,500 or more is very active. So what does 900 make us? Close to dead! But its not hard to imagine. Get up from, take elevator to car park, drive car, take elevator to office, sit down, order fast food, reverse the process to go home and go back to bed. Just to note, 1km is about 1300 steps.

Its gotten to the point where we have to purposely inconvenience ourselves to get our activity level up. Here are some suggestions (that actually show us how pathetic our average activity levels have become).

Park at the far end of the car park and walk to your building Instead of dropping the kids off in front of the school, park a couple of streets before it and walk them the rest of the way… 10,000 is actually considered a LOW estimate for children.

Go round the shopping centre or supermarket in a random. With today’s super malls, this is a big thing!

Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator (well if you work on the 50th floor, maybe climb halfway to start)

Give the dog an extra 5 minutes on his walk (we need it even more than him)

Stop emailing colleagues in the same office, instead go over and talk to them (shockingly effective considering how much email we send each day!… great for team building as well)

Go for a walk during your lunch break, walk to get your lunch or to find somewhere to eat your lunch

Get up and do something, run up and down the stairs for example during TV ads (no excuses here!)

Walk to the corner shop instead of driving or popping in on your way home

Walk to friends houses instead of driving

Take public transport and walk from the train station

Dr. David Bassett studied an Amish community to see what things were like in the past. These guys have no cars, no electricity and do hard manual labor to put food on the table. Its like time travel to the past. They eat 3 large meals a day with lots of meat, vegetables and natural starches like potatoes.

The 98 Amish adults Bassett surveyed wore pedometers for a week. The men averaged 18,000 steps a day. The women took an average of 14,000 steps.

The men spent about 10 hours a week doing heavy work like plowing, shoeing horses, tossing hay bales, and digging. The women spent about 3.5 hours a week at heavy chores. Men spent 55 hours a week in moderate activity; women reported 45 hours a week of moderate chores like gardening and doing laundry. Wow that’s a lot of manual labor. Get a pedometer (its only like 20 bucks) and see how you fare.

2. Fat Percentages and Obesity

Activity level leads us right on to this point about obesity. The scary obesity rate is one of the most obvious changes in fitness.

The obesity rate among the participants in the study of the Amish population was 4 percent, as determined by body mass index, or BMI. The current obesity rate among the urban populations is 30% or more. OK the obesity percentages are a scary thing because obesity is already in the “VERY high risk of a lot of bad ways to die” category. There is still the overweight category (obviously fat but not hitting the medically obese range) to consider. These people are at a high risk already!

The total percentages of overweight + obese are really wild… hitting close to 70% in some cities. Compare this to the average in the 1980s. 10-15% obesity in most cities. It rose to the mid 20% in 1995 and its now at an all time high.

3. Diet

OK linked to point no.2 is of course diet. This is another obvious change in fitness. Its very simple actually. We now eat more refined foods (white bread, sugar, rice, flour, noodles). In the body these give pretty much the same response – FAT storage. The only time we should eat these items is immediately after hard training. As we can tell from point no.1, not much of any training is going on. But lots of eating is!

We also eat less fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. We eat more snacks like chips and cookies (which are also refined despite what advertisers claim).

These changes in fitness are made more troubling because even natural foods today are not as good for us as they used to be. Current farming methods make vitamin and mineral content in fruits and vegetables drop about 10-40% depending on the mineral. Corn fed meats don’t give us as good an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio as we used to get from grass fed and free range animals. (that means not so many healthy fatty acids for us)

And of course, we are also simply consuming more calories. The Amish people in the study in point no.1 ate about 3600 calories/day for men and 2100 calories/day for women. Many sedentary people consume this much and more! How? Well a fully “featured” gourmet coffee from coffee bean or Starbucks can add up to 500 calories in an instant of caffeine folly.

That’s 2 hours of walking for an average sized lady.

Just remember, calorie quality counts as well. 2000 calories of vegetables, meat and healthy fats is infinitely better than 2000 calories from french fries. Its close to impossible to get fat on the first, and nearly impossible not to get fat with the second.

I like this car analogy. If you had a 2million dollar dream car, would you put low grade or high grade petrol into it? High grade of course! Then why do some people put low grade filth into their bodies which are so much more important than the car we drive?

4. Games children play

The average child who grows up in an urban environment is a motor-skill weakling. As a hobby, I coach youth basketball. In our talent scouting, I have kids do a very simple drill of dribbling in and out and around cones. There are so many kids who can’t do it and some who I think might fall down if asked to RUN around the cones without the ball! This is in contrast to the past where kids ran around, chased each other, played physical games and sports of all kinds, where the playground was the center of fun for young kids. This lack of activity not only causes a change in fitness for the child in his/her youth, but has a profound long term effect as well.

Of course this change in fitness is a result of a combination of possible factors.

Parents who only consider academic success to be worth striving for, who only give a child recognition and praise when they do well in academic subjects.

An education system who also values book knowledge above other things and takes away physical education classes to put more academic lessons in.

Poorly taught PE lessons that don’t help a child develop motor skills in the key early years Busy double-income families where fathers are not free to play with their children (or don’t care enough to… money isn’t everything dads)

The maddening computer game addiction situation where virtual life is more important than real life. I believe this is the reason for all the empty basketball courts in my neighbourhood. It used to be that teams lined up to play there. Now only people my age (late 20s to 30s) play. No young kids are there any more.

But actually, so what? The issue is that if kids stink at sport and physical activity, the well known psychological factor of “competence” comes is. Simply put, in general, we do what we are good at. If our next generation is poor at sport and physical activity, they are even less likely to do any of it! Which combined with items 1 to 3, make for a deadly health crisis for many countries. Obesity costs the UK 7.4 billion in national health care per year! If we don’t help our kids, that’s only going to grow to be a bigger and bigger burden for everybody.

5. Social Support

This is a more subtle change in fitness. People are communal animals. We stick with things because there is a supportive community behind us. Even drug and alcoholism rehab centers recognise this. We all need social support. But social links are getting weaker. And no, Friendster and MySpace links don’t make up for it.

In a more connected but less close world (I know so many people who are only comfortable behind a computer screen and not in front of a real person) there is less social support than in the past (extended families, communal living, strong friendships within a neighbourhood etc) and its hard to stick with something which requires dedication and sacrifice like an exercise program. I’m not a sociologist but I do believe there is a reason that exercise classes do better in terms of membership than individualized training. Most of them certainly are not as effective as great individual coaching. But the social factor does come in when sustaining a lifestyle change is involved.

6. Free Time

This subtle change in fitness is pretty clear. We just have less time that we “own”. Bosses, social, family and other commitments make free time a very precious commodity and it adds difficulty to the fact that time is our only non renewable resource. When we choose to exercise or spend time cooking to keep a healthy lifestyle, we are competing with movies, games, TV and other things for free time. We know that exercise is good for us, but it not only has to be good for us, it has to be BETTER in our minds than the latest episode of desperate housewives, or the latest computer game. That’s the issue. We need to prioritize long term health over temporary fun.

7. Training methods

OK here is where we are doing well. 30 years ago the aerobics craze took the western world by storm. Its not a very good training method both in terms of results, and in terms of results per unit of time. Add that to the fact that we have such minimal time to train, we can’t afford to train in a sub-optimal way. We know a lot more now. Fortunately for us, there are good methods that smart coaches use to improve training efficiency and get RESULTS even with less training time. Some of these include smartly designed resistance training programs, interval training and good assessment techniques to determine individual needs. If you have a coach like that in your corner, you can turn back the clock and avoid becoming one of the ever growing statistic of people who’s health is headed in the wrong direction. Stay fit and strong and good luck!

Supplements for Health, Fitness and Longevity Include a Range of Chinese Teas

Tea’s origin was China. The Zhuo (1034-246 BCE) Qin (361-296 BCE) and Han (206 BCE-226 CE) Dynasties all embodied extensive tea-drinking. Tea use for medicinal nutritional, health, fitness and longevity purposes is determined via the ‘Wuxing’ or 5 Elements School system underpinning (TCM) Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Massage, Health Qigong, Feng Shui, Keep-fit, Wu-Shu-Kung Fu, Chinese herb-use and more.

Chinese tea, purchased in boxes of sachets or in delightful crystallised blocks involves an astounding number of forms tastes, textures, herbal and nutritional ingredients. Applications-including for health, youthfulness and longevity are guaranteed by the long history of TCM. The history of the 5 Elements or ‘Wuxing’ is longer still.

Drunk at home or work Chinese tea is delightful. Consumed at Tea Houses like ‘Up Tea!’ situated in Little Newport Street is London’s Chinatown such tea-drinking can be a delightful experience.

Tea, Health and the Wuxing

The 5 Elements School ‘Wuxing’ links each of the body’s 5 major internal organs (and much more) to Elements as follows: spleen (Earth) lungs (Metal) kidneys (Water) liver (Wood) and heart (Fire). The Wuxing is a proven internal and external balancing health-system. Many teas involve remedies to cure or prevent common complaints, or encourage optimum health, youthfulness and longevity springing from the 5 Elements system still in popular and official use today.

INSTANT CHRYSANTHEMUM BEVERAGE (ju hua cha)

This chrysanthemum tea comprises 45% dried flower extract crystallised upon 55% cane sugar. Chrysanthemum tea treats irritation and inflammation in the lungs, nasal passageways and throat via its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It also encourages improved vision and helps to cleanse the liver in particular.

Wuxing Students learn how eyes and liver are inter-connected, correspond to the Wood Element and can be both naturally nourished by ju hua cha. They also practise 5 Elements Qigong routines with similar effects.

TIEN-CHI (Heaven Energy) GINSENG FLOWER TEA (ren shen cha)

Tien-chi Ginseng (Panax pseudoginseng) ginseng tea variety from southwestern China is mainly cultivated in Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces. Tien-chi plant root is used as a health product for regulating blood circulation. The flower functions as a heat clearing and toxin cleansing herb used to reduce inflammation, feverish feelings, skin eruptions and sore throats.

XIAMEN GREEN TEA (lu cha)

Green tea stimulates the heart in particular, aids digestion and banishes fatigue. Encouraging the body to metabolize more fat and thus much used in dieting and slimming, green tea also encourages longevity and general bodily detoxification.

However as it slightly inhibits iron-absorbption from the diet, green tea should be avoided by anaemia sufferers and women during their menstrual period

JASMINE FLOWER TEA (mo li hua cha)

There are several distinct jasmine tea varieties including green, jade or black. Good for oral hygiene and palate cleansing (before after or during eating) Jasmine tea’s highly aromatic soothing nature also stimulates digestion, encourages relaxation and helps prevent insomnia.

MORNING STAR GINGER BEVERAGE (sheng jiang cha)

Ginger tea stimulates and balances the activity of the heart, lungs and spleen in particular and assists the balanced functioning of the 5 major internal organs as a system in a tonic fashion. Its anti bacterial properties also make it a popular cold and flu remedy.

LUO HAN GUO EXTRACT TEA (luo han cha)

Luo Han Guo (luohanguo) aka ‘Monk Fruit’ (one of many longevity links) is member of the Gourd Plant Family and a fruit well-known for its sweet taste. Luo han cha. It is also well-known medicinally for treating coughs and sore throats and also encouraging longevity. Luohanguo has more recently been developed into a low-calorie sweetener.

When prepared this tea, dark brown and toffee-tasting, can be drunk hot or cold.

CHONG JI 5 FLOWERS TEA (wu hua cha)

This blend of 5 Chinese medicinal herbs cleans away internal heat, encourages diuresis and detoxification. It can also be used to treat sore eyes, sore throats, dysentery and constipation. Delivered concentrated upon cane sugar crystals it has a pleasant caramel taste

Overall

Drinking Chinese Tea in accord with Elements theory enhances health, youthfulness and longevity in many related ways. 5 Elements Qigong provides internal breathing and external massage routines towards the same ends.

The above brands and types of tea are readily purchaseable at your local Chinese Supermarkets the teas’ Chinese names appear in brackets. They are all inexpensive, represent tremendous value for money, are the real thing and offer the true ‘thrill of the swill’!

Understanding the Definition of Health Related Fitness

Being a Health and Fitness Professional, it is my job to understand terms and definitions which are commonplace to this industry, as well to keep abreast of evolving trends. Through my experience, I have found that a number of terms deserve a little more clarification than that which they are granted.

Aside from clarifying the definition of Health Related Fitness, this article intends to shed some light on a few of the associated terms, and to show their respective distinctions.

Is it simply all in a name?

The fitness world seems to use the concept Health Related Fitness like a generic fitness principle – interchangeable with others like “Physical Fitness”, “Health and Fitness” or simply “Fitness.”

While all of these terms can be included under the broad term Health and Physical Fitness, they individually refer to different aspects – both generic and specific. Unfortunately, references to these and other fitness-related terms are often vague, while consistency in their intended use is meager at best; there is a kind of “generally accepted” use for them, but individuals often rely on own interpretation, and this can lead to confusion.

With that said, does Health Related Fitness simply infer fitness by means of good health? Not quite. That is why we need to understand a little more behind these words before digesting the definition.

How did the term Health Related Physical Fitness come about?

That is a good question. One could probably ask what is this concept all about – can we not simply use the terms “Fitness” or “Physical Fitness” instead?” Why Health “Related”?

The main reason stems from the fact that most health and fitness terms are used inconsistently and often refer to different concepts or notions. Subsequent to the 1996 report from the US Surgeon General (Physical Activity and Health; a report of the Surgeon General), there was a move to try and address the alarming rise in obesity levels among the general American public. Studies and initiatives required standardization among clinicians, health practitioners and fitness trainers to grapple with the task at hand. Enter “Health Related Physical Fitness”, a working term to address the general state of health among the public.

The definition of Health Related Fitness

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the main authority in this field, ineffective definitions with unclear and subjective wordings, as well as definitions containing terms which themselves require defining, have contributed to confusing the term “Physical Fitness.”

There exists no reliable guide for Health and Fitness Professionals to measure “Physical Fitness”, because the term has been so loosely and inconsistently defined. It is therefore that one should consider the concept of Health Related Fitness. The definition therefore centers on the 5 Components of Physical Fitness which relate to “good health.” These Components are:

  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness
  • Body Composition
  • Flexibility
  • Muscular Strength
  • Muscular Endurance

On the other hand, Skill Related Fitness Components are:

  • Balance
  • Reaction Time
  • Coordination
  • Agility
  • Speed
  • Power

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the definition of Physical Fitness emphasizes the difference between Health Related Physical Fitness and Athletic Ability Physical Fitness. Its point-of-departure is the “health” of the US nation, which is often referred to as the “public health perspective.” In that respect, the 5 Health Related Fitness Components are more important than those related to Athletic Ability (or Skill Related Components).

Although the concept of Health Related Fitness has an integral association with “good health”, the 5 Components are addressed individually by health professionals to allow for their measurement.

Now that we have a deeper understanding of the term, what purpose does it serve?

Continuing from where the definition left off, the objective of measuring the 5 Components is to advise clients about their own particular Health Related Fitness, and to use data obtained from the tests to design appropriate exercise programs which can then be evaluated.

The 5 Components contribute evenly to make up a holistic Health Related Fitness, which is of direct interest to the health of the ordinary citizen, in that the concept is normative. In other words, it is a standard which allows for consistent application.

It is therefore important for those working in the health and fitness industry not to mistake “overall physical fitness” with “Health Related Physical fitness.”

To conclude, let us consider this distinction between Physical Fitness and Health Related Fitness

One needs to bear in mind that regular physical exercise can improve overall Physical Fitness, as well as Health Related Fitness. However, overall fitness is a generic term and is up to subjective interpretation, while Health Related Fitness can be assessed.

The distinction therefore, between these two terms, exists in that Health Related Physical Fitness can be measured according to a set of established comparative norms.

This is where the “rubber hits the road.” The guidelines set out by the ACSM enable health professionals to work with clients to assess and measure their response to exercise and prescribe appropriate exercise programs. A client’s progress can then be monitored and adjusted where necessary in order to obtain the desired fitness goals.