Health and fitness is a topic of tremendous interest in contemporary society with industry sectors consisting of nutritional and dietary companies, IV med spas, medical practices, and sport centers… all dedicated to the sole purpose of helping people stay fit. But what exactly is fitness? Is fitness related to appearance?
The following is the first of a three part series intended to provide some basic information on a subject that affects us all. To better understand the matter, one must travel back in time when modern human ancestors were hunters and gatherers, a lifestyle dramatically different from today’s all too often sedentary routine. In past times, fitness wasn’t about external facade. Our prehistoric ancestors were constantly on the go in order to subsist; fitness in that world was the key to survival.
As civilization evolved and daily life shifted from active foraging to a more deskbound existence, physical fitness was no longer a requisite. At the same time, food sources became more readily and easily available, disrupting the millennia of established equilibrium. While our social habits may have changed, our bodies have not adapted to this modification. Various medical problems including obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and even certain psychiatric illnesses that plague modern day society may be attributed as a result of this fundamental shift. In order to manage these problems, one must first identify the contributing culprits, promote public awareness, and finally devise sustainable and feasible adaptation strategies.
According to the Center of Disease Control, approximately one third of the population in the USA is obese and two thirds overweight, with a staggering 150 billion dollars spent annually on weight related illnesses. There are multiple contributors to this problem, which can best be illustrated by the energy equation.
The recommended daily nutritional allowance for adults, which is found on the package label for most processed foods, is around 2000 Kcal/day. One gram of ingested protein or carbohydrates yields approximately 4 Kcal, while the same amount yields 7 Kcal and 9 Kcal respectively for alcohol and fats. This suggestion is based on the assumption that the average adult will expend about 2000 Kcal a day, which can vary based on multiple factors.
In simplistic terms, to maintain status quo, the amount of energy consumed has to equal the amount of energy utilized. Excess intake results in an energy surplus, which contributes to increased body mass and vice-versa.
The subsequent article will focus on energy intake and how that affects fitness.