Ok, so America is not the "fittest" country in the world. According to Forbes.com we are #9 in the list of fattest countries. How did this happen?
I recently read an article in the Harvard Gazette explaining why citizens of modernized countries are overweight. Anthropology professor Daniel Lieberman believes that our weight-gain really started about 10,000 years ago. Way back then, we were still hunter-gatherers, and our bodies needed food that was calorie dense to keep up with the physical work we were doing. But about 10,000 years ago we switched from hunting and gathering to farming. Over time this switch has enabled us to increase our population and given us more leisure time, and while our diets are very different than they were long ago, our bodies are essentially the same.
This really got me thinking about what kind of physical activity our bodies need. Hundreds of years ago our springs were spent planing and tilling and raising livestock. We were in constant motion. Most Americans today, well, we sit on our butts. The American College of Sports Medicine estimates that the average american takes between 3,000 and 5,000 steps daily, which is about half of what is recommended for a healthy activity level. So not only are we not moving enough, we are eating way too many calories for our underproductive bodies.
Next time I get on the treadmill and think I've done my cardio for the day when I hit thirty minutes, I'll think about my ancestors hauling logs and plowing fields for 6-8 hours a day. I bet that will kick my butt into doing a full hour! :)