Technology won’t help America’s fitness, obesity problems

Recent fitness articles report that approximately 75% of the population is overweight or obese. This means that if your weight is considered normal for your age, gender and height, you are in the minority. How did this amazing data come about? I’ve read a chapter in the book “The Spark” where former African Olympic or world distance running champions grew up relatively poor and had to walk or run if they wanted to get somewhere. Ironically, most of their children are not fast runners. The difference is that parents grew up in a culture that walks or runs everywhere. Now the parents are famous and rich, their kids now drive their family cars to school. Children grow up in a culture of luxury where the need to walk or run is not part of their environment.

I remember buying my first bike on my birthday. This is a single-speed ACE bike that weighs nearly 20 pounds. If you have to pedal up a hill, you stand on the pedals, pull the handlebars, and put all your weight on the pedals. This is a great leg strength builder. To go faster, you pedal faster. Then the technology came along. First, it’s a three-speed bike that makes it easier to find gear to help you get uphill. Then there were 10 speed bikes, and there weren’t many cases where you had to get up and pedal. Ultimately, the bike was equipped with a 12 to 20 ratio. While this may seem like a good deal to cycling enthusiasts, it is misleading for the average rider. Gears are like a rod driven car. You need to be in the proper gear and be able to shift into another gear. The same applies to the gears of the bike. Gears are suitable for different road conditions. Depending on whether the road is flat, downhill, slightly uphill, steep uphill or level for a long distance, the rider needs to shift into the correct gear. Many young drivers today cannot drive a stick shift car. You can imagine how confusing a 10-speed bike would be to them if they had a hard time shifting a three- or four-speed stick in a car. Some cyclists I’ve seen will find a gear and stay there for the entire ride. Having 10 gears on the bike is a nice addition, but it seems too many riders only use two.

My son grew up in a time when skateboarding was all the rage. This is a great exercise because you have to push with one leg to get up to speed. The constant pushing and bending of the legs is a great exercise. Most of the body is involved in some way when the skill level goes up and jumping in the air. You don’t see many overweight skateboarders in skate parks.

In recent years, technology has improved the ease of transporting bicycles, scooters and skateboards. Sitting on my front porch on a good night, I watched the electric skateboarder climb a slight uphill as fast as a car. There’s not a lot of sports to hit the streets at high speed while standing on a skateboard. It reminds you of Marty McFly and his hoverboard from the movie Back to the Future.

The same goes for the now popular electric scooters. They can “rent” a scooter back to their apartment or home, leave it there, and ride it to school or work the next morning. I was amazed by how fast these scooters were on the road.

Advertising for e-bikes is also at its peak right now. I have seen bikes of different sizes being ridden with no pedals. With the rider in the saddle, the only exercise is whether or not they have to turn the handlebars to get around corners. There are electric bikes for kids, mountain bikes, and road bikes, and there was a time when cycling was a great way to get some exercise.

This modern way of moving from young to old is one of the reasons why most of the population is overweight and obese. It starts at a young age and continues into adulthood. The methods of walking, running or scooting, skateboarding or cycling are now a thing of the past. I remember walking a few miles uptown to see a movie. Then when the younger kids turn 16 or 17 and can now get a driver’s license, anything more than two blocks away will need to drive to that place. Walking or running somewhere is now frowned upon.

Technology is good for many things, but the result is that calories are not burned in the field of exercise and weight gain is not a healthy outcome. There are some benefits to the older style of travel.

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