Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Sedentary Lifestyle

North Americans are leading a life of luxury with everything automated. From the dawn of the industrial revolution the goal of our society seems to have been to make the lives of average Americans as easy and comfortable as possible. Beginning with the invention of the light bulb and shortly followed by electric wiring in households the daily life of Americans have become less and less difficult and more and more encumbered by gadgets and machines with each passing decade.

With increased mechanization and the advent of “utilities” people were doing less manual labor and began entering the workforce of factories and management. Household servants left the households for the more independent role of factory workers. In order to replace those servants contraptions were developed to perform their duties. Iron wood burning stoves replaced the open hearth fireplace. This meant that meals could be prepared much differently than they had been up until this point. Rather than porridge and stews, created in one pot, now separate courses and dishes could be prepared. Coal soon replaced the wood burned by those ovens, which in turn required an income in order to purchase on a weekly basis. Self sufficiency was going to the wayside. Soon following the wiring of households with electricity came refrigeration. This meant food could be kept much longer, and this again changed the way in which food was prepared. Smoked meats and pickled vegetables were no longer a necessity. Also, shopping was required less frequently. Soon refrigeration came to the homes air as well and air conditioning became popular. Following in quick succession was the mechanical and then electrical washing machine, air suction carpet cleaners (vacuums), electric sewing machines, electric toasters, electric mixers, and of course the gas range stove/oven. From there, of course, the electric gadgets and appliances multiplied tenfold.

The changes these appliances created in the household would shape our society as we know it today. They solidified the roles of men and women in our society for one. Men became the so-called “breadwinners” going to work and earning an income to pay for the appliances and the utilities to run them. Women stayed home and managed the household and its appliances. She was free to do chores as she saw fit. Blue Monday was no longer. People used to change clothes on Sunday, therefore Monday was for washing clothes, and it took all day. Clothes then were hand made and very heavy when dry let alone wet. Tuesday, then, was for mending and ironing them. Making and then mending the clothes for an entire family was a huge uptaking. That is until the invention of the electric sewing machine. The electric sewing machine made the manufacture of clothing a viable industry and the mending of those clothes less of a chore. This trend would continue in nearly every area of the house and business place for the next 100 years.

These days we have every convenience and amenity imaginable. Manual labor is nearly unheard of. Only farmers and those in construction know anything of physical labor and even those trades are heavily mechanized these days. Less work is required now to accomplish the same result than ever before in history. Americans are doing less and less as the years pass. “Work” is no longer physical, walking has become riding, and chores simply no longer exist as gadgets, appliances, and utilities have replaced them all. Every single day there are advertisements for products to make our lives yet easier in some way. Gadgets to be used in place of actually doing something. At the same time, all day long television is filled with commercials for exercise equipment and weight loss systems, supplements, and pills. A possible connection? I’ll leave that to you to decide.

Further, we don’t even prepare our own meals anymore. We buy prepared and pre-packed food which we then re-heat. There’s a whole food industry geared toward ease and convenience, marketing their products to the public at large. Food now is highly processed and highly chemical laden in order to preserve shelf life and therefore profitability with no question or concern toward the possible health concerns or repercussions. More than this, we often don’t even bother with food at home, we simply “eat out” stopping for food at one of the many, many fast food restaurants. The food products here are an abomination and I contend they are not fit for human consumption. Fast food is not grown but engineered. But I digress.

My point is if we don’t wake up and change our habits the repercussions will be vast and, certainly, beyond the scope of this post. The single largest of these, however, is the physical detriments this lifestyle promotes. The inactivity and total lack of any physical activity at all, besides walking from building to car, coupled with the atrocious diet of the modern western culture is resulting in serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies, metabolic disease and disorders, and medical conditions resulting in decreased quality of life as well as decreased overall life span. It’s thought that the current generation is the first which will not outlive their parents. Again, I leave it to you to decide if this is some sort of weird coincidence.

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