Are We Living in a “Fit” Society?
It sounds nice to say, "we are living in a fit society.” But just what does that mean? By "fit” do we mean our society "fits” right into this new era of "globalness” that we are entering? By "fit” do we mean that we are on a whole, emotionally stable? By "fit” do we mean that we are in "good shape” physically?
If we think of fitness do we only concern ourselves with cardiopulmonary capabilities? Do we only think of our appearance and our "abs”? Is our ability to compete in a sport the main objective in our perspective of being "fit”? Just what is our measurement of being "fit”?
Are we a "fit society” because there are more of us "pumping iron” today so that we look better or possibly feel better? Do we consider ourselves as being a fit society because we try to spend more time running, pace-walking, spinning, etc.? Are we a fit society because we "feel” more sophisticated and demand more information and / or promises on food labels…even though we probably don’t read them?
Of course being a "fit society” can also mean that we see ourselves as being an integral part of a changing world. However, do we see this perspective of being fit because we are becoming more aware of our role in world affairs and how we feel we should be perceived or are we becoming more global in terms of being more aware of others and their behaviors and needs and how we perceive them? Are we fit because we are becoming egoistically nearsighted or are we fit because we are becoming eclectically farsighted? In other words do we perceive ourselves as being a "good fit”?
Let’s focus on our physical fitness and our health. On the whole we are pretty pleased with ourselves. We seem to be living longer lives according to insurance company numbers. Reputable research studies are showing that exercise in general or even specific exercises improve our "condition”. There are exercises to improve our cardio-pulmonary function; there are exercises to improve our mental agility and memory gymnastics; there are exercises to improve our aging skin; there are exercises to improve and/or maintain our physical agility; we have exercises to relieve emotional/mental stresses; we have exercises to improve our birthing conditions that benefit not only the pregnant mom but the developing fetus as well; and there are very specific exercises to improve whatever we feel is necessary to rehabilitate, be it the heart, the bladder, the brain or an abused joint. More of us are trying to become or emulate professional athletes, today. If we haven’t thought about it yet, in due time we will research and design an exercise that could solve just about anything. We have expanded our attention devoted to nutrition so as to complement our desires to be physically fit
Yet paradoxically, in our quest and to some degree success, to be more and more "fit”, we seem to be creating a population of obese, and more potentially, diabetic youths.
To support this relatively new-found concern for maintaining fitness, we: have enrolled in "fitness” programs in huge numbers (as adults); spend record amounts of dollars for home fitness equipment; bought into a myriad number of nutritional programs and/or diets; search for books to home teach us how to become fit; and as adults we even design our day so that we can make room for and enroll in "fitness classes”; we even design vacations around "fitness” programming or scheduling (when the operative word or words for vacation used to be "fun and relaxation”!).
Aside from personal interactions from time to time, and within very specific circumstances, cutting down on personal contact seems to be the trade-off for allowing us to gain / maintain a desired fitness level. Perhaps we rationalize this by looking at the fitness center, the biking club, or the team, as a social event as well.
With all of the concern over our health and "keeping fit”, why is that we see more young people over weight, more clinical obesity, and of grave concern, more childhood weight problems? Why do we observe more road rage, more "casual violence”; more inter-personal hostility? Have we narrowed the term "fitness” to the degree where we relate being fit solely to how we look and to some degree our physical health? As adults, have we become so consumed with our striving to be fit, that we are overlooking what is happening at the ages of 1-18? More children, today, are overweight, depressed, suicidal, and inactive (despite community recreational programs which usually cater to and satisfy a) the smaller segment of the community’s children…and, b) those children who are repeat involvers, such as those who play sport from one season to the next. Even here we may be creating a problem by supporting the thinking that those children who are serious about a sport must participate in that sport all year around in order to be better fit and competitive. Are we, then, promoting the growing incidence of "overuse” injuries?
The "neighborhood” used to represent the social development of the child. Today, the "screen” has virtually become the youngster’s "neighborhood”.
It seems that we have introduced a life style that has substituted screen watching for running and jumping. Go to the large complex movies and note that there are gaming machines installed so that while the youngster is waiting to go into a room to sit and watch a movie screen, he/she can spend the time looking at a smaller screen while playing a game. They "don’t even have to talk with each other”. There are youngsters who will arrive at the theater one hour or so early just so that they can get their time in, in front of the "screen game”. Socially active teens or preteens don’t "date” anymore, with an attempt to get to know one another. They date, but in groups or via electronic message sending. They don’t have to rely on themselves to interact. They have become dependent on group or machine behavior. So we seem to have evolved a life style where children are growing up, eating the wrong foods, being less physically active, becoming more at ease with a screen and less at ease with another individual in a one-on-one context. Is it possible that this supports an egoistic perspective on life, in that one learns to react in a way that is personally and immediately important to oneself? Many of these "screen games” are designed to show that performing in a violent manner is the way to handle adversity. These games certainly are not informative as to how other cultures think or behave.
Will we ever recognize that "being fit” should also include our minds? We have passed laws that require food companies to print important data, about the food that we eat, on the labels. This has been done in the interest of "keeping fit and healthy.” Yet who is reading these labels? Are we teaching our children to read and to understand them? Are we reading the printed word less and becoming more dependent on hearing words off the screen? A number of studies suggest that reading less off the page while hearing more off the screen interferes with the development of the imagination. Wasn’t one element of a "fit mind” considered to be a "healthy imagination?” "Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I believe a fellow by the name of Einstein once said that!
Accepting that the term "regulate” is fast becoming quite debatable, politically, in the interest of "safety” we are willing to regulate travel; in the interest of acceptable science we are willing to regulate experimentation; in the interest of health we are willing to regulate medicine and nutrition; in the interest of the environment we are willing to regulate industry; and in the interest of justice we are willing to regulate law. Why are we not interested in regulating what our children are exposed to?
Are we a society of fit people because we cater to ourselves? Are we a part of a "fitness society” because we are looking to "fit” in and become more integrated globally?
What does "fit” mean to us and when we decide, just how important is it? Perhaps in addition to looking into the mirror to help us arrive at the definition and importance of being ”fit”, we should look around us more carefully to see if we should be redefining what a "fit” society should be and then thinking about what we could be doing to more realistically consider ourselves as living in a "fit” society.
Grosz R. Are We Living in a “Fit” Society?. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. 2009 Oct 01;7(4), Article 3.