Technology Has Made Modern Humans Weak

Modern HumansFirst off, I would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season.  I was recently visiting my parents back in the town I grew up in for Christmas.  Luckily enough, my wife’s family also lives in the same small town.  During the time we were in town there was a huge ice storm.  When I say huge ice storm , I am not kidding.  Every tree was covered in ice on every branch.  And I tell you what, ice is heavy and trees apparently have a limit to how much weight they can hold.  Tree branches were ripped off trees all over the place and had also fallen on power lines, cutting off power to hundreds of thousands of homes.  This leads me to my point for this post, technology has made humans weak and dependant on technology and machines that may not always be reliable.

When the power goes out, people freak! I mean seriously, not lights, no computer, no TV, what the hell do you do?  This includes me by the way 🙂

Our power went out for only 10 minutes or so, and we were one of the lucky ones.  Some people were without power for days.  Given that many people lost power for a significant period of time, as soon as the power went out at my parents place, thoughts started to race.  I was walking around the pitch black house looking for flash lights, when it hit me, what the heck would I be doing right now if I was in a period in history when there was no electricity? The obvious answer is that I would be sleeping because it was dark out, but then I thought better of myself.  The use of fire has been around for hundreds of thousands of years, or longer, so maybe there would have been some candles lit, or maybe a nice fire in a fireplace.  Also, since there was no T.V. we all probably would have been sitting around that fire actually talking to each other.  What a novel idea, socializing face to face with other humans.  Weird concept 🙂

Modern Humans are Weak – Food Storage

Ask the average person today how they would store their food if there was no such thing as electricity.  I bet they wouldn’t have an answer for you, in fact, I really don’t have a complete answer for you, but I know for certain that one form of food preservation is fermentation.  Many foods, from vegetables (sauerkraut), to dairy (Kefir, yogurt), to meat (traditionally cured meat without the use of starter cultures) can be fermented as a way to preserve it for safe consumption at a later date.  The cool thing about fermenting food is that it creates bacteria that can be classified as probiotic bacteria.  You know all those wonderful organisms in our body the contribute to our health in more ways than we even know (digestion, immune function, first line of pathogen defence. etc).  So, without the use of fridges and freezers, people would most likely have consumed much more fermented foods, and thus a whole lot more probiotic bacteria, than modern humans.  Among other things, this would no doubt have led to a more robust digestive tract, and thus a healthier overall individual.  This is all I have to say about food storage because it consists of my only knowledge of food storage without modern technology.  However, I know that there are plenty of other food storage techniques that could possibly have health benefits for us.

Food Storage Tips for a Modern World:

  • Eat plenty of fermented foods.
    • You can buy fermented cabbage and pickles at the store or make your own.  I just purchased a fermenting pot to make my own sauerkraut

  • Take a high quality probiotic, maybe even a soil based probiotic, especially if you don’t eat fermented food
  • If you buy organic produce from a farm you trust, maybe don’t wash your fruits and vegetables all the time

Modern Humans are Weak – Social Interaction

Social interaction, I mean real face to face communication with other people; not over the telephone, not via email, not via text or twitter or facebook, happens less and less often these days.  Technology has taken away our social requirement to actually talk with somebody; and unfortunately, this can have some negative health impacts (1).  When you think about it, up until very recently in our evolutionary history, humans had to directly interact with each other to survive.  Whether this was to trade or buy necessary things, or to properly organize a group hunt in our hunter gatherer days, social interaction was required.  Here is a link to an article discussing the health benefits of social interaction, the article mainly focuses or stress reduction in stressful situations.  This is really just one example of how social interaction can benefit our health.  Don’t believe me, jump on Google and see what it has to say.

So there you have it, more technology = less social interaction = less healthy people.

Social Interaction Tips for a Modern World:

  • Schedule phone free time in your house when you can talk face to face with your family
  • Have dinner at the dinner table and talk with each other, not in front of the TV. (this is a good opportunity for phone free time)
  • Look the person you just bought your coffee from in the eye and say thank you
  • Smile at a stranger on the street
  • Walk over to your co-workers desk to chat instead of emailing them
  • Stop by a friends house to say hi instead of texting them
  • Start a conversation with a stranger for now reason, but don’t be weird.  Or be weird, who cares 🙂
  • Join a meet-up group
  • Play a team sport

Modern Humans are Weak – Movement

I think that this part is obvious.  Technology has made us sedentary.  We really don’t have to move very much to survive these days.  Cars, computers, planes, and automated machinery have all made life ideal for those who do not want to move.  From an evolutionary psychology perspective, this makes sense, since for most of our history humans probably looked for the most energy efficient way to get things done.  Why? Well, because up until about 10,000 years ago, food wasn’t really a given, we had to hunt and search for it, and there may have been periods of time when one didn’t know when the next meal would be; so, we conserved our energy as much as possible.  In reality, I think that hunter gatherers probably knew exactly how to find food most of the time, I mean that is what they did day in and day out for more generations than we have been farming.  Tradition and experience passed down from one generation to the next can be very powerful and for some reason I don’t think that we were struggling for food all that often, but who really knows.

Back to movement.  Clearly, before the rise of modern technology, we had to move a great deal more just to live.  Whether it was hunting and gathering, farming, or walking to the market, etc.  Before we had motorized transportation there was this wonderful way of travelling…walking :-).  Ok, there was horses and other animal forms of transportation, but you get the point.  We moved way more.  But what about different ways of motion? Well, when you look at hunter gatherer tribes and more traditional societies, squatting is the preferred position for rest and…um…other things (pooping, birthing).  The ability to sit comfortably in a full squat is associated with greater mobility and reduced risk of things like back pain.  That’s not all, imagine all the other forms of physical labour that would have been required in earlier societies; anything from climbing trees to sprinting, throwing and lifting.  These movements would also apply to early farming populations as well.  Don’t believe that hunter gatherers moved more that modern people? A fairly recent article (2) confirmed that hunter gatherers indeed moved more than modern people; however, and this may blow your mind, their energy expenditure was no greater even though they moved more! The researchers in this study noted that this finding indicates that the cause of obesity is more complicated than simple energy expenditure….Duh, look no further than our modern idea of food.  It has been known for quite a long time in the fitness industry that your weight is 90% related to what you eat, not your activity level.  Now, please do not take this to mean that you shouldn’t be exercising or moving, there are plenty of other health benefits associated with physical exercise, like decreased inflammation and brain health to name a few.

Movement Tips for a Modern World

  • Walk to work
  • Bike to work
  • Run to work
  • Walk to the grocery store
  • Take a leisurely stroll after dinner instead of watching TV
  • Play a physically active video game (ie. Just Dance for Wii)
  • Join a sports team
  • Play golf!!
  • Get a sit stand desk for work or home

  • Climb a tree
  • Learn parkour
  • Lift weights
  • Sprint
  • **At the end of the day, moving more each day is you goal.  Find whatever way you can to accomplish this with as much enjoyment as possible.**

Does all this mean we should kick technology to the curb? Heck no, I love technology and it makes many things so much better (like having the knowledge of the world in the palm of my hand), we just need to be smart about how and when we use it to make sure we don’t forget what we need in our lives to be healthy.  I will mention that the above is definitely not an exhaustive list, just a simple quick commentary about some of my observations.  On that note, I invite you all to comment about other ways technology has made us weak, and provide any tips on how we can stay strong in this modern world.

Sincerely,

The Barefoot Golfer

References:

1.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21534675

2.) http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0040503

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