Society's Greatest Tool for Health & Fitness
More than one in three Americans are obese (4). As a country, we spend roughly 17% of our total GDP on health care (3). That's %50 more than comparable developed countries. We also spend more than any other country on pharmaceutical drugs per capita- a whopping 25% more (1). All of this spending, yet our life expectancy rates are still lower than most comparable developed countries (3). Ok, so we have a problem. What is the answer?
A lot of people will tell you it is American’s lack of discipline, our pure laziness and gluttony that have created these problems. If, for a moment, we put this opinion on hold and look at the full situation, it becomes evident that the issue is not discipline. American’s spend more time in the gym than any other country, we work long hours and enjoy success in many areas of life. The Huffington Post cited a study comparing the exercise patterns of several developed countries. They found, "Americans lead the fitness league, exercising 135 days a year compared with a global average of 112, while Britons exercise an average of just 108 days a year. Italians exercise just 96 days a year, while the Dutch exercise 93 days a year." (6) Why is it that we can experience success in our jobs, families, hobbies, religion and virtually anything else we set our minds to, but when it comes to success in health, body composition and fitness, we suddenly become the most undisciplined humans on the planet? Don’t be fooled. Discipline is not the bottleneck in this system- It’s EDUCATION!
“Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”- John F. Kennedy
The United States is the fifth most educated country in the world (5). We have seen education become the principal source of positive change in so many areas throughout our world and human history. No matter what the goal, be it increased efficiency, improved economy, fighting suppression or reducing climate change, leaders from every country agree that many of the world’s problems can be fixed through education. But, take one of the biggest problems facing our country today and you will see that America is failing to deploy this strategy that we know to be tried and true. We seem completely unwilling to commit time, effort, or educational resources to this major issue. When our student's reading or math scores are low, do we shake our heads and say, "these kids aren't disciplined?" Before you took calculus and were taught the quadratic formula was it discipline that was holding you back? Of course not. These are indications of lacking education, not poor discipline.
Food, food science, diet, health; these subjects are virtually untaught throughout our education system. A study from the National Institute of Health found that, of the 106 medical programs surveyed, only 30% required their future doctors to take a nutrition course (2). This finding led the researchers to the clear conclusion stating, “The amount of nutrition education in medical schools remains inadequate”(2). Duh! If this study represents the true population, it means that 70% of our medical doctors have NEVER taken a nutrition course! Stop and consider that. Even for the doctors that were required to take a nutrition course, that's still only ONE nutrition course from K-12, four years in undergraduate study and at least another three years in medical school. That's ONE nutrition course in twenty years of schooling, and that's for our doctors- society’s gatekeepers to health. But let's not forget that we all eat, multiple times a day. There is no reason to hand off all, or even most of the responsibly, to doctors. This is an area that everyone requires significant working knowledge of. Nurturing our health is a daily task, this is some of the most useful knowledge we may ever offer our society.
Abe Lincoln would tell you, it starts with our youth, “Teach the children so it will not be necessary to teach the adults”. Our country prides itself on consistently improving our education systems. If we want continue to improve our education system, let's focus on an area that is essentially untapped. The only way to improve a system is to improve the bottleneck, to strengthen the weakest link. This is education that is relevant to every human, and one that we will never outgrow.
Education will bring motivation but more importantly, it will reduce the need for discipline. As you become more educated, your choices will be more efficient, more effective. By all means, continue to improve and expand how disciplined you are, but don't spend more discipline than you have to on nutrition, diet, exercise and lifestyle. Instead, free up your discipline for something you care about more than anything, put it into your life's purpose, your passion. Educate yourself on how to get the biggest return on your efforts. Knowledge will empower you to harvest the lowest hanging fruit, it will direct you on the path that leads most directly to your goals of energy, health and fitness.
Look at those people who have created positive change in their life. It seems unlikely that a middle aged adult would suddenly became more disciplined or suddenly develop significantly more willpower. More discipline and more willpower aren't what cause these changes-its education. Education leads to greater awareness and greater awareness leads to new values. When this process happens, lasting changes take place.
One day, food science may be an important part of our school system’s curriculum. Until then, take full advantage of the age we live in. The Information Age has granted us access to more knowledge than ever before, but, without wisdom this information is useless. Have the wisdom to educate yourself on a topic that will give you something we all wish we had more of- time, energy, and health.
“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine.” ― Hippocrates
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." –Nelson Mandela
Written By: Joe Nord
(1) Business Insider. Akin Oyedele - http://www.businessinsider.com/pharmaceutical-spending-by-country-2015-11
(2) The American journal of clinical nutrition. Kelly Adams - Karen Lindell - Martin Kohlmeier - Steven Zeisel - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2430660/
(3) The Commonwealth Fund. US Spends More on Health Care Than Other High-Income Nations But Has Lower Life Expectancy, Worse Health http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/press-releases/2015/oct/us-spends-more-on-health-care-than-other-nations
(4) U.S National Library of Medicine https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx
(5) USA Today, Thomas C. Frohlich, 24/7 Wall St. - http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/09/13/24-7-wall-st-most-educated-countries/15460733/
(6) Huffington Post. Countries That Exercise The Most Include United States, Spain, And France http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/12/31/country-exercise-most-_n_4523537.html