Reading an article in the Atlantic, about why (it is speculated) that people find it more difficult these days to maintain a healthy body weight, I couldn’t help but weigh the ideas with some skepticism. The author posited that some of the contributing factors included a change in microbiomes, resulting in changing gut bacteria, and increased exposure to chemicals and pesticides. The supposition was that people exercising and eating similarly weighed less in 1980 than they do now.
Something that wasn’t taken into consideration was that the amount of physical exercise performed by both groups could not possibly be measured with any degree of accuracy. The minuscule amount of energy required for routine tasks can’t actually be measured but they add up over a lifetime. For instance, the following is a snapshot of a typical day when I was twenty years old:
Manually brush teeth – no electric toothbrush;
Feed the dogs, opening a can with a manual opener;
Lift the heavy garage door – no push of the button opener;
Type a report, invoices, etc. on a manual typewriter – correcting my typos alone burned countless calories;
Crank down the windows in the car and push in the clutch and shift manually;
Mow the lawn pushing a mower with no propulsion (hardly anyone I knew had a gardener and you were lucky to have a gas-powered mower) ;
Vacuum the house with a Hoover that weighed half as much as I did;
Cook dinner with heavy, cast iron pots and wash and dry the dishes by hand – no dishwasher in my house;
Sit down to watch TV, get up to change the channel and adjust the volume;
Walk to the only phone in the house, attached to the kitchen wall, and push a rotary dial around the face of the phone.
To this sampling, you probably could add thousands more, depending on the household you grew up in. When I was a kid, we were expected to work alongside our parents. We didn’t sit in front of the TV until all the homework, housework, yardwork, and correspondence (that’s letter writing to you youngsters) was finished.
The Atlantic article mentioned that the price of a gym membership was about the same as it is now. Gym! We didn’t need no stinking gym! By the time we finished our chores, we thought getting up to change the channel on the TV was an onerous task…unless Dad said I could select the program.