What the machines have done
So it has come to this, the American medical community resorting to threats evoking the C-word – cancer – to try to get people to walk up a few flights of stairs for the good of their own health.
“Couch Potatoes Take Note: Climb Some Stairs to Cut Cancer Risk,” the website MedPage Today headlined in July following on a headline earlier in the year promising “Small Gains in Cardiorespiratory Fitness Track With Improved Longevity.”
All to be followed with the headline warning last month that “Dementia Risk Tied to Daily Step Count” above a story that went on to say that “At least one in 15 dementia cases may be attributable to physical inactivity.”
Some Americans have taken note, but most haven’t in a society that year by year for decades now has moved farther and farther away from exercise as a part of daily life in ways both big and small as machines have taken over.
Way back in 1968, Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction movie “2001 – A Space Odyssey” envisioned this happening in an aggressive way, but more than 20 years after 2001 it is obvious the takeover has been far, far more subtle but just as problematic in terms of human life.
Driving everywhere in a motor vehicle instead of walking anywhere is a part of it, but far from all of it. Almost everything we do now is made easier by machines, a convenience for which we pay a price we never consider.
Thanks to the machines, we don’t wash dishes; the dishwasher does. We don’t rake leaves; we blow them away with electric blowers. We don’t push a hand-powered mower across the lawn; we ride one or get towed along behind one that powers the wheels.
We don’t hammer nails; we use a nail gun. We don’t saw wood by hand; we cut it with a cordless saw or, for the bigger stuff, a chainsaw. Even the common pruning saw is now being replaced by cordless saws that do the same job just a tiny, tiny bit faster and easier.
We circle around parking lots in our motor vehicles to find a parking spot close to the door so we don’t have to walk 100 feet to get into the store. Or we avoid in-store shopping altogether because it’s even easier to sit on our butts, type the keys on our computers, and order our needs delivered to our homes.
And it’s all killing us in many ways: heart disease, cancer, metabolic disease (ie. obesity), dementia and, of course, the pandemic.
Two decades ago, scientists put pedometers on a sampling of Americans and found they were “taking an average of 5117 steps per day.”
“Men and women living in the United States took fewer steps per day than those living in Switzerland, Australia, and Japan,” they later wrote in a peer-reviewed study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. “We conclude that low levels of ambulatory physical activity are contributing to the high prevalence of adult obesity in the United States.”
The Swiss were in 2003 walking an average of 9,650 steps per day – 10,400 for men and 8,900 for women, according to the study. That’s about 89 percent more steps per day than the average American at the time.
“The prevalence of obesity in U.S. adults was 23.9 percent in 2002,” the study said. “By comparison…Switzerland had an obesity rate of 8 percent in 2002.”
That’s a big difference But now, 20 years on from when the study was published, obesity seems the least of it.
This is a difference of about 113 percent.
Or, to look at this another way, the Swiss, who walk almost twice as much as Americans, have been dying at slightly less than half the rate of Americans since the pandemic began.
And the differing death rates here clearly aren’t about vaccines or masks.
The Swiss concluded the latter don’t do much. An October 2022 study by Swiss researchers published in the peer-reviewed European Journal of Public Health reported that “the (Swiss) face-mask mandate was associated with a 0.3 percent reduction in all-cause mortality.”
Meanwhile, vaccine rollouts and uptake were similar in both countries with the Swiss in May of this year reporting 12.4 percent of the population had wholly avoided vaccination while in the U.S. more than 81 percent of the population had received at least one dose.
So ignore those bandaids and accept the reality: The Swiss were far less likely to die of Covid-19 than Americans because they were fundamentally fitter, and fundamental fitness was fingered as a major protection against Covid-19 almost from the beginning.
Known, but nothing done
A United Kingdom study of the association between walking pace and Covid-19 mortality first appeared online in the late summer of 2020, only about six months into the pandemic.
“As Covid-19 primarily affects the cardiopulmonary system, self-reported walking pace is a key target for investigation with important implications for future Covid-19 research and public health,” the UK researchers observed then.
“Reported walking pace, a measure of functional fitness, has been shown to be a strong predictor of mortality. Subjects with a self-reported slow walking pace have two to four times the risk of cardiovascular mortality compared to brisk walkers, whilst also being estimated to die up to 20 years earlier….These strong associations with cardiovascular health are thought to reflect the fact that walking pace is a powerful marker of cardiopulmonary function and acts as a global measure of whole-body physical fitness, reserve and resilience.”
To determine how this fitness related to severe illness and death from Covid-19, the researchers dug through the medical records of a massive sample of more than 414,000 people on file in the UK’s Biobank and found that fat or thin, the fast walkers – those with the best “whole-body physical fitness” – were more than twice as likely to avoid severe Covid-19 as the slow walkers.
Overweight and obese fast walkers were at greater risk of severe disease than normal-weight fast walkers and at slightly more risk than normal-weight steady/average walkers, but still at significantly less risk than slow walkers of normal weight.
“Slow walkers had the highest risk of severe COVID-19 regardless of their obesity status,” the researchers concluded in a study later to appear in a peer-reviewed publication, “with normal weight, overweight or obese slow walkers all having over twice the risk of severe COVID-19 compared to normal weight brisk walkers.”
The response to these findings on the part of U.S. health officials? Almost nothing.
The words that never crossed the lips of U.S. Covid-19 czar Anthony Fauci were these: “You need to get up off the sofa and out of your cars and start getting fit if you really want to survive this pandemic.”
This despite Fauci’s confession to New York Times health columnist Jane Brody that he understood the value of fitness:
Only fitness isn’t really about looks or feelings, it’s about the overall health of a species that over the course of a couple hundred thousand years evolved on the run. When homo sapiens stop moving, they basically start to rust away.
The machine is built to move, rest, recover and move some more. The body’s built-in immune system depends on this kind of regular reprogramming. Scientists have been aware of this for a long time.
The pandemic should have underlined what Americans need to do to stay healthy, but it clearly hasn’t.
If you believe in conspiracy theories, you might almost conclude the ruling elite want it this way. That old study on steps in America found those with a “less than high school” education were walking only 3,920 steps per day – about 75 percent of the already low national average.
Those less education have long suffered higher mortality in this country, and a peer-reviewed study in Public Health last month reported “low education is strongly correlated with Covid-19 deaths, with an effect size of a university degree comparable to that of being aged less than 65 years (old). If this correlation is indeed causal, then it would imply that low education accounts for between 1 in 10 and 1 in 7 deaths in low-education counties.”
The ruling elites, who largely run the political system, have done nothing to try to fix this. Instead, they’ve tried to make roads ever more efficient for motor vehicles so they can drive from their posh neighborhoods to a fitness club to work out.
Fixing communities by reducing crime and altering transportation systems to encourage people to walk or ride bicycles is an idea that has been ignored despite the evidence that it gets people moving and thus improves their health.
“Both Switzerland and Japan have much higher rates of transportation-related walking compared with the United States , which contributes to the difference in daily step counts,” the scientists involved in the steps-per-day study wrote 20 years ago.
If Americans could be encouraged to walk just another mile per day, they observed, “it would bring most Americans much closer to the average daily step counts seen in other developed nations (for example., Switzerland, Australia, and Japan), although to close the gap entirely would require Americans to walk about 30 to 40 minutes per day.”
The researchers settled on a mile walk instead of 30 to 40 minutes because, according to the study, “this could be easily achieved in about 20 minutes per day.”
Obviously, it wasn’t easily achieved. Americans are fatter today – weight being one easily tracked general measure of fitness – than they were in 2002 when 23.9 percent were reported obese.
Almost 42 percent of Americans are now obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and nearly half of non-Hispanic black adults are obese, which could partially explain why the black community was especially hard hit by Covid-19.
The pandemic should have been a warning to America to start redesigning its cities and suburbs to encourage people to walk, or at least ride bicycles, as much as possible to get from Point A to Point B, but there has been no sign of that.
If anything, the design of urban and suburban transportation systems seems ever more directed at motor vehicles, while the movement required in almost every daily chore short of eating and using the bathroom is being taken over by a machine, and it’s probably not long before someone invents a people-feeding robot so adult humans don’t have to lift their arms to stuff their faces.
Then they will be able to just sit in their chairs in front of the TV or computer screen and be fed like babies.