October 25, 2004
"It is of interest to note that throughout history, the rise and fall of nations has seemed to coincide with the rise and fall of the physical stamina of their people. Greece rose to the height of her glory (leaving her indelible mark upon the world) during that period when the physical vigor, the patriotic zeal, the independence and freedom of her people were at their height. Athletic professionalism for the few and a lack of strenuous participation among the many brought about a decline in the national physical stamina and a consequent decline in the power of Greece. The same may be said of the great Roman Empire and of Egypt. History indicates, too, that a decadent nation realizes the costly blunder it has made only after defeat at the hands of a physically superior enemy. A period of reorganization follows and attempts are made to imbue the nation with the need of physical improvement."
- "Gymnastics and Tumbling", Aviation Training Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, US Navy, 1944.
Post comments to comments.
Get Honest. TJ Cooper, CrossFit East.
Posted by lauren at October 25, 2004 6:11 PM
Nice idea TJ. Personally though I just make sure my chest touches the deck.
Oops, just noticed the little bar running along the top. Very smooth.
thanks Matt. We found that with this little tool 50 honest pushups was rougher. Its adjustable for bigger, faster or smaller.
The idea that the average person should be physically fit is absent from our broader culture. That we should be trim may have some hold, especially among women, but not strong, flexible, coordinated, and metabolically conditioned. Sure, who wouldn't want it, but the number of people willing to achieve and maintain it is despairingly low.
I've been teaching high school (mostly writing and English, but now also PE) for about 5 years now. I've met with many different educators, administrators, and teachers about the nature and purpose of education. Not once in memory has the notion that physical competency is a requirement for being educated. No one denies that PE is a great thing and that in a perfect world all kids would be fit, but the acceptability of being deconditioned is now all but universal.
This, in my opinion, is a great tragedy. Getting in shape is never easy, but it only becomes more difficult with every passing decade. The deconditioned state of our youth mimics the deconditioned state of our adults. And if there is any truth to the Naval quotation in today's WOD, the danger goes far beyond the cost of our impending medical crisis.
In some ways, the development of body building represents the failure of our culture to honor fitness. While many top body builders are tremendous athletes, their physical abilities pale in comparison to the original muscle men like Jack LaLanne (Coach Sommer wrote that Mr. LaLanne did 1000 pullups and 1000 pushups in 83 minutes!). The sport rewards appearance over performance, which would be ok except that this trickles out (or rather floods into) our broader culture.
Anyone who has done CrossFit for more than a couple weeks knows the tremendous benefit of fitness. It's not something that can be easily quantified, but the pervasive improvement in the quality of life is undeniable. Being fit is better than being unfit, and the only people who dispute it are those who lack the discipline to be fit. I, for one, am excited to see CrossFit--a cheap, fun, and highly effective approach to fitness--work its magic on the broader culture.
Those of you who pride yourselves on being the fittest in the land still have nothing to worry about. There is no possibility that the average person will push themselves hard enough to become an elite athlete (with or without CrossFit). But there is no doubt in my mind that the average person can indeed use CrossFit to become substantially fit. And this would fill a great need in our culture.
At every job I've ever had I notice that the smokers, the fatties, the skinnies, the druggies, the drunks, the coffee-hounds, the lazy, are the least motivated and least efficient. They are mentally and physically inefficient. They are always the latest, the slowest, the lowest performers.
And I see it at school, too. The people who don't get up and work out in the morning are slow to pick up information, and their lack of solid physical habits leads to deficiency in their study habits.
If we allow this to be a nation of the fat, the slow, the lazy, and the substance-dependent, where does that lead us? To strife, to poverty, to ignorance and to apathy.
So please be a better example.
I like that quote but I think the history is a little revisionist and vague. Among many other things indulgence, greed, war and avarice felled the Greeks of old. The same is true with the Romans (plus a healthy dose of Christianity polarizing the nation's beliefs). While the physical state of ancient Greece is a perfect metaphor, and probably quite true in many respects, it does not take the sole responsibility for her destruction. A pattern of nationalist furvor, economic instability and a continual state of war also seem to coincide with the near destruction and/or fall of many great nations. For many reasons, humans could do well to crack open a history text now and then.
A few wallball shots couldn't hurt either.
Nic, I understand your point, but I have to step up and defend the smokers. I knew more smoker Marines that could run 3 miles in less than 20 minutes than I've ever met non-smoker civilians, and often we would get drunk the night before and run after a pick-me-up ciggie @ 0500. I'm not saying that it's good, but everybody needs to have a vice (or two). Sadly, I've gotten out of shape the last few years, but nobody can say I'm not trying my damnedest to rectify that. End rant.
I agree 100% with Nick. Although I no longer smoke, while I was in the 101st neither I or any of my squad members (who pretty much all smoked like a chimney) had problems running sub 6:00 miles. Unfortunately I haven't seen a 6:00 mile in about 5 years now, but I am sure I will get back to it now that I have started doing CrossFit.
Interestingly, I think the point about smoking and good running times illustrates that fitness does not equate health. You can be very fit and very unhealthy (unhealthy as in you're likely to get sick and die young).
I don't think fitness is what's most lacking with society. I'd be happy if most people didn't consume pops, chips and candy ad nauseum. Not eating junk is easy. Fitness, OTOH, isn't really a necessity. The benefit of training is that you enjoy it. I personally have seen little external benefit (except the occasion convenvience of being able to run further or impress my friends). To me, fitness is like playing chess. Valuable, but not something we ought to force on others. Staying healthy, OTOH, has very important repercussions on everyone's general health.
Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. A nation screams for crossfit ?
Paul- good observation about health and fitness.
The quote, which is beautiful, begins by asserting that athleticism correlates to the greatness of a nation and then goes on to say that athleticism is the cause of the greatness and fail of a nation. Both of these statements seem suspect to me, however.
In the first place, correlation is not the same as causation: I suspect that the decline of fitness in ancient Athens and Rome was caused by the decline of those cities' greatness. As a specific example: It seems likely to me that the decline of fitness among the Roman people was caused by the decline in the militarism of Rome; the citizen was, on average, less likely to be extensively involved in the military and so less likely to be fit.
In the second place, although it is no doubt true that individual athletic greatness correlates in time to the greatness of a city (in a wealthy city, athletes have more leisure to train), it seems unlikely to me that either average fitness or health of the Roman and Greek peoples correlated with the greatness of their regimes. The Spartans were at their most politically powerful when their mores had already decayed extensively. The Athenians were no doubt more fit in the days of Marathon, when they were just a small city accustomed to hard living, than in the days of their Empire, when the wealth of the average citizen had increased.
I agree that there is a difference between health and fitness. In fact, one of the reasons I sold my gym in '95 was because I felt I was fit but unhealthy. But I disagree that fitness is as optional as chess for a good life.
Fitness for the average person means having the strength, coordination, balance, agility, stamina, and endurance to live a healthy life. This includes everything from walking up stairs to moving furniture to playing with (or like) kids. Ultimately, fitness is an essential component of health. This doesn't mean that everyone needs to pull a sub 5min "Fran" to be healthy, but that some degree of physical competency is necessary.
What then is health? It is not a simple question. You can't say that smokers are unhealthy while non-smokers are healthy. There have been mild smokers who live past 100. I think there is a physical, mental, and emotional component to health. It's much more than the absence of disease. I'd say it's more an enthusiasm for life, an eagerness to get up in the morning and fight the good fight. It includes the ability to tolerate discomfort and to overcome obstacles.
Are there mental and emotional benefits to being physically fit? Of this there is no doubt. In fact, if you look at models of the most successful and effective people (such as those put out by Stephen Covey and Daniel Goleman), you see that fitness programs such as CrossFit support and enhance all aspects of health and success.
This quote describes perfectly what has happened with the Soviet Union, or to be more exact with the people of the Soviet Union.
I don’t want to discuss politics right now. I just want to share my observation about the people. Whereas before everybody, and I mean literally, everybody was pursuing some kind of athletic and/or intellectual endeavor and was striving to achieve their best, after the fall of the Soviet Union it seems like everybody is on the path of self-destruction. While before the drug problem was non-existent, now it’s not uncommon to see young kids shooting up heroin or sniffing glue right on the city streets. Before it was the culture of intellect for the youth and now it’s the club and “rave” culture. Whereas before, one had to be an athlete of some kind to be considered “normal”, now the “normal” and “cool” guys are gangsters and druggies. The mortality rates skyrocketed while the life expectancy plummeted. There are more deaths than births and it’s getting worse every year.
These tendencies among people coincided with the destruction of the old country and system and were probably caused by people’s loss of direction in life and their disappointment in the system many truly believed in. And I am not sure what preceded, the decline in physical stamina or the actual demise of the country. Anyway, the situation is getting somewhat better right now with the reintroduction of sports and physical education in schools and colleges. Also, while the country is striving towards capitalism, it’s adopting many of the features common in capitalist countries, even fitness wise. Moscow is full of gyms and “health clubs” including Gold’s, World’s and the like with machines, personal trainers, etc. Bodybuilding has become synonymous with fitness. Before, athletism was fitness, and weightlifting and gymnastics were the two most popular sports to practice.
The current situation is really sad. I just hope the people come to their senses and start doing something about their lifestyles. I also hope that people of this great country won’t make the same mistakes and that the common sense will prevail.
GREAT IDEA! I am off to Lowe's again! I made paralettes a while back now I am going to make a push up NO CHEAT station as well.
Fitness = Crossfit
One Word: ACCOUNTABILITY! We live in a society that is both enabling and excuse laden. If you can't get good grades, it's not your fault..you have ADHD. If you can't handle life's daily stresses maybe you have depression or anxiety or both. Maybe mommy and daddy didn't nurture you enough. Failed to meet expectations? No problem...just aim lower next time. I'm sure there is a pill you can take or a support group you can find to make you feel better about yourself...because you'll likely meet people that are more messed up than you are. Overweight? That's not your fault either...it's just a "slow metabolism" or "bad genetics" or some other excuse. We as a nation spend billions on weight loss/dieting/fitness every year, and yet we are the fattest that we have ever been and are approaching a public health crisis because of it. It's time for people to get real, get off their a@@'s and get it done.Sorry for the rant...:)
HQ workout this morning. "Fun with Deadlifts" might be a nice name for it. Multiple sets at varying weights, with a slow warm up of pushups, squats, pull-ups, and sit-ups. A bit of running thrown in. Great challenge yet again.
YES! I think Tom should run for President. I agree 100%. If nobody's at fault for anything they do, then who is? You're fat because you eat too much crap and don't exercise; point blank. If you're fat, you have two choices; be proud of being a fat slob OR do something about it. Quit bitching and get off your butt and exercise. Yes, it requires some effort (God forbid), dedication and discipline, but did any other those attributes EVER kill anyone? There are gyms everywhere and there's a site called CrossFit.Com to help you out. Get some good running shoes, put down that donut and get busy! Good quote today on the decline of nations due to their lack of physical fitness. I agree with those that feel that this nation's going down hill faster than the speed of light. Good day to you all...
This is an interesting topic but I am inclined to disagree with those that think we are in some kind of fitness related crises or even an obesity “epidemic”. I won’t go into great detail about why I believe the studies that support the alleged obesity epidemic are wrong, unless I’m challenged of course. Suffice it to say that a significant chunk of the obesity epidemic research is tied to the BMI, which is hopelessly outdated and fails to take into account lean body mass.
As far as adults go I would say that adults are more fit than they have ever been. Gyms abound and virtually every neighborhood is filled with the sight of walkers, joggers and cyclists. I am old enough to remember when a grown man who jogged was considered a fanatic. My father didn’t even own sneakers and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them unless he was painting the garage or something. He walked more that your average man today and his job was more physical but looking at picture of him at my current age he look about 20 years older than me.
When I was a kid in the 70’s I use to lift weights at the YMCA. It was a dungeon with strange contraptions. It even had one of those vibrating belts that you placed around your waist. It was suppose to stimulate circulation and trim fat. There were no women at all, ever. The entire facility was very desolate. That same facility is now state of the art and is filled every morning and evening. During the day seniors workout. Women lift heavy weights. Seniors move big weights. This was unheard of back in the 70’s.
I know dozens of people over 40 that have completed the Boston Marathon in under three hours. Many of the guys I grew up with still play organized hockey and basketball. The point I’m trying to make is that 30 years ago this was unheard of or at least very rare for a grown adult, especially women and seniors. Now it’s commonplace.
So I would say that it’s bunk to assume that as a society somehow we are falling apart physically. Your average Joe 24 Fitness may not be up to Cross Fit standards but I bet he is more fit that his father or grandfather was at his age. It’s a mistake to assume that 50 or 60 years ago every one was a sturdy farmer who at whole food and did CF like workouts. Most people lived dismal lives, had bad health habits and worked in very unhealthy and dangerous jobs.
Some will point to the problems with fat kids and say they are lazy. My twist is that too many kids are overbooked with activities today. They need more time just to goof around in the backyard, the park or out on the street with other kids. Set a kid free and his natural exuberance will keep him as fit as he needs to be. Over load him with too many organized activities and it kills his spirit. You also need to provide them with decent food. Nothing fanatically just decent, nutritious food. Parents that don’t are negligent
Hmmmmm. . .
Decline of the Greek and Roman Empires tied solely to the fitness of their citizens? A bit oversimplified to be sure. Are we in decline solely based on what we perceive our fitness to be? John says this best and I think I agree with him. Our media tends to oversimplify messages so the can fit in a 25-30 sec. story complete with 10 sec sound bite. "Why your kids are fat, details at 11!" "America's fatter than ever, the terrorists are winning! Today at 4."
John's right when he points out that 30-50 years ago our society drank hard liquor like fish and smoked like chimneys. My parents both smoked (mom quit when I was a pup, dad smoked up until he died in 1969) and never "worked out." Heck, I don't think I'd even consider them as active back then. All my dad did was work, come home, eat, sleep, go to work. So where was the fitness?
Today, kids have parents who go to the gym, play sports, and watch what they eat. Unfortunately, there are just as many kids with parents who don't and don't care to get their kids on the right track. At least once a week, my 10 y-o will tell me about a kid at school whose parent brought them Taco Bell for lunch. And here I am making sure my kid has a turkey sandwich, fruit, juice, and a healthy snack everyday. Don't get me started on school lunches.
So what's the point? I guess you could say that although awareness and fitness in society is rising, there is much work to be done. As a teacher in an urban area, I see more laziness and obesity than most. Yet, I also see a willingness of young people to be led to fitness and to follow a positive role model if they can't find one at home. You should see some of the parents that come out to our games!!
Yeah, we've put more and more on the agenda for kids, robbing them of the time at home needed for a balanced life (family time, nutritious meals, plenty of rest, time for homework), but as parents it's our job to make sure the balance is maintained. As Tom said, take responsibility and, more importantly, take time with the kids and see if we can't right the ship one family at a time!!!
What was the question again???
So much of fitness...with regard to whether or not you'll actually work to get fit...is environmental, IMO. I've lived all over this country, and my current home is just about the worst place I've ever been w/respect to a fit population (Memphis, TN). Memphis is consistently rated one of the unhealthiest cities in the nation. And trust me...they're right. There's a barbecue joint on every corner, and people seem to be of the opinion that over-drinking is as necessary as breathing. Between eating and partying, a large part of the Memphis population seems not to have much time left for activity. The worst offenders are, by far, the guys. You should see the engagement/wedding pictures in this town. Cute girl, fat guy ($$$).
Yes, there are gyms on every corner...3 within walking distance of my apartment. And yes, there are always people in them. But you can't measure a person's health/fitness solely by their attendance. While I do applaud the fact that they've a least gotten off the couch, watching some of these people "work out" is a study of the pathetic. They go on autopilot the second they walk in the door...same routine every time, never "in the momemnt", etc. Generally a waste of time and space (and inevitably in my way, damn it).
On the other hand, I've lived in California, Florida, Minnesota, etc., places where being active is a way of life. It can be -20 degrees in Minneaplis and you'll have tons of people outside exercising. It's so ingrained in their lives. Hence my argument that it's an environmental thing. People there are about staying active and healthy, and they pass that trait on to their kids (no, I'm not talking genetically).
Want to make a difference? First, start by being a good example yourself. Stay fit and healthy, and if someone asks you about what you do, give 'em a good answer (even if the question is amazingly stupid). Second, probably most importantly, do whatever you can to influence your children to be healty and fit. Teach them about good nutrition and feed them healthy food. Encourage (and yes, even force if necessary) them to play sports and be physically active. Do what you can to make sure your local schools recognize the importance of physical education and that they have strong PE/athletic programs.
I am very impressed with the quality of these observations. My own view is that keeping fit is a vital expression of union with the physical world, with larger Nature and with our nature as humans. No one can doubt, looking at a fit man or woman of any age, that this is what human beings are at the highest, which as Aristotle tells us is our true nature.
The work implied by fitness is also deeply related to character. Character is composed of many elements, but surely among them are self-discipline and persistence, which are the heart of fitness. Fitness is therefore central to any real training. (It has always been considered vital in the Police Corps, which is now strongly committed to CrossFit).
Anyway, today I rowed 5K, 23.49.
I'm consistently impressed with the level of discourse here. :)
Ross, I fully agree with your post. Interesting facts there as well, thanks for sharing.
Tony, I agree with your thoughts on fitness. It's whatever allows you to get by functionally throughout the day. I think it's a fairly easy level to attain. A 200lb DL, an 8 minute mile, some push-ups and pull-ups ought to be sufficient to achieve almost any daily task.
Health (and how it's defined) is an interesting issue. I'm not sure if I'd put psychological health under a different category or not. It's certainly as important (if not more so) than physical health. I definitely concur with your thoughts on enthusiasm and eagerness for life. Since you mention Stephen Covey, I've found Brian Tracy to be particularly inspirational (especially his thoughts on learning).
John, interesting perspective. Seems people are often quick to villify the present and reminisce about the 'good old days'.
On lack of accountability and excuses, examples like ADHD, depression, and the genetics of obesity were brought up. On the one hand, it is true that you can blame your genetics and your body's responses to "life's daily stresses" for health problems or life problems. Science is progressing (I call it that, anyway) and revealing how our bodies function. It is impossible to separate our mental lives from our physical lives; everything has a physical basis. Now that we're discovering that different people have different propensities for not only physical cravings (for sugar or alcohol, for example) but for emotional ones as well, we have to deal with the reality that it's not so easy to "Just Do It" or "Just Say No" (i.e., use willpower to overcome some biologically driven craving). I think the lack of accountability noted above is partly due to the transition of realizing that, while there may be a physical basis and explanation for some people's choices, people as individuals are still responsible for the choices made. Our modern, Western society hasn't completed the process of integrating the mental and physical, the mind and the body. So our ideas, social understandings, ethics, what have you, have to catch up to the fact that there are physical bases for mental states and attitudes and that differences in brain and body chemistry can affect how and what we choose.
As to "life's daily stresses", it's clear that our stress systems (like the "fight or flight" response) did not evolve in the modern environment. These responses get triggered by many normal, daily activities in our lives. Chronic stress (leading to chronically high levels of stress hormones) does lead to problems. See here for a thread discussing some of this:
On the other hand, we do need personal accountability, no matter the excuses and reasons. So we need to figure out ways to deal with these issues. It's interesting how the "Just Say No" push against drugs has changed to the "Do it for yourself because you're better and more important than that" attitude. Cognitive behavioral therapy applied to the masses is a better strategy. Gotta hit the brain's reward systems!
Re: the possibly false "obesity epidemic": Anecdotes will only get you so far. San Antonio, where I'm from, is full of fat people. It's really noticable when I go back home. It has earned the label "Fat Antonio" after surveys of BMI were done across US cities. Here's a study that says multiple measures of weight, including ones less sensitive to the errors of the BMI, indicate that we do indeed have an increase in obesity:
Demography. 2004 May;41(2):303-14.
Continuous and robust measures of the overweight epidemic: 1971-2000.
Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Georgetown Public Policy Institute, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA. Jolliffe@ers.usda.gov
This article considers alternate measures of the overweight epidemic that are more robust to measurement error, continuous in the body-mass index (BMI) at the overweight threshold, and sensitive to changes in the BMI distribution. The measures suggest that prevalence rates may understate the severity of the overweight problem. Since 1971, the prevalence of overweight has increased by 37%, while the distribution-sensitive measure has increased by 173%. Furthermore, although Hispanics have the highest prevalence of overweight, the distribution-sensitive measures reveal that overweight Hispanics exceed the overweight threshold by the smallest proportion (21%), whereas overweight non-Hispanic blacks exceed the threshold by 33%, on average.
I don't think we are neccesarily in the middle of an epidemic, but in my mind there is certainly a correlation between unhealthy consumption, lack of physical activity, loss of work ethic and accountability, mental decay, and social decay.
I think it's important to spread the values of health, fitness, wellness, critical thought, and personal responsibility. These are the values that maintain a strong, democratic nation.
Today's schools and the current culture emphasize marketplace function, popularity-focus, dependence, reification of issues, and avoidance of 'blame'. That's self-centeredness without self-sufficiency.
Give me a year or two and maybe I will call this an epidemic.
Interesting citations but I can go tit for tat with studies that counter these claims that we are in some form of a fat “epidemic”. My experience and evidence is not anecdotal. My career is that of statistician that morphed into a bio-statistician and worked for Public Health for many years. I conducted several of the NIH surveys and currently still work in health care. You can give me a thesis and I can make the numbers work for you to support your thesis. Sadly many studies are conducted in such a fashion.
I am not arguing the fact that we have many obese people here in the USA, we do and we have for quite some time. My argument is that it has been sensationalized by media and other entities. Most of these studies take a sample of the population and look at the BMI to see if theses people qualify as obese. According to the BMI I am obese and so is Arnold and millions of others that happen to be well muscled individuals. Virtually all the men I know lift weights and would also qualify as obese but they are just well muscled. Look at the index sometime and see where you fit. The BMI is flawed in this sense and it is the major benchmark used by all these studies. What this does is label people obese that aren’t really obese. Your numbers are already skewed.
By looking at only part of the picture, the unfit, we fail to see how many more people are participating in regular exercise these days. People live longer and stay active well into old age these days. Some of it is medical advancements to be sure but some must be contributed to people living healthier lifestyles. This is not anecdotal, it’s factual.
Those of us old enough, I can’t believe I said this, well remember the days when only Jack LaLane and “health nuts” exercised on a regular basis. The men in my family and neighborhood worked at factories and mills. They drank and smoked heavily and most died shortly after retiring from a life of abuse. It’s really only in the last 20-30 years that exercise has become a mainstream activity for adults. Once again, this is not anecdotal, it’s factual.
Ok nothing poetic just what I feel is true. In my aspect the average person, while they would benefit from it, does not need a program like crossfit. I have noticed a good majority of the people on here are military or the like. people in harms way need a program to get them out of harms ways. in other words this is perfect for you. But lets take my father. He is a microbiologist and in good shape, not great, but good, and that is all he needs to be. he lives a great life plays with the kids, goes on vacations, and is not bothered by missing a few workouts, because his life does not depend on it. and as far as smart, I am going through med school and he helps me still.
he would honestly not benefit to more than he does right now, because any extra talent would never be used. ( also he is at only 5% body fat, and I am at 10%).
now I will take myself. I was a runner and lifter in high school. I was also dumb when it came to taking care of myself. at junk, drank pop, and didn't sleep. I was good but I was not great, or at least what I knew I could be. now I run miles under 6 min, 3 miles at 19 or below, and can lift at least body wieght in just about any lift. I am proficient at gymnastics and handling my body. This has all happened in the last year and a half of crossfit, and cleaning up my eating and drinking. and I mean all natural foods and nothing but water. and just for reference my fastest mile in high school was 6:30 and my fastest 3 was 20:45. and my lifts well 225 was my max dead.
What am I getting at? It this. not everyone realy needs to train like this. to be honest not everyone really needs to train but we do need to stop being lazy and find somthing we love. If you love doing math go do it to heck with all these people telling you to workout. do what excites you, and trust me if you say smoking and hacking around or doing drugs and being arrested excites you, you are just being lazy and need help.
unhappyness is what produces failures not lack of being fit. I know sounds corny but i have taken up enough room already so unhappyness will safice.
I am impressed with the level of thought that has been brought to the table today. I meant to emphasize the importance of personal accountability, not neccessarily attack any particular belief system. My examples were just those, examples. The mind/body/spiritual health must be cultivated in order to achieve true "fitness" but one must still put their own work in in order to get it. My real indictment lies with the problem our society seems to have with taking responsibility for your own self and your own actions. It has become too easy to find an excuse for failure and blame someone or something else. Each of us is blessed with certain talents and cursed with certain flaws. It is a true champion that identifies both in himself/herself and uses what he/she has to the fullest, while working hard to overcome the obstacles imposed by his/her specific limitations. Determination, persistance and plain old elbow grease often get the job done. So, we may yet have something to learn from past generations, despite their seeming lack of awareness of the physical culture. Namaste.
I would be interested in reading the research you have paraphrased. Do you have the links or abstracts for those facts? It is an interesting idea.
I just know I see a LOT more really fat people, especially little kids, and these unfortunate kids ain't buffed.
No facts, just my observation.
Once again, I'm entranced by this discourse. Each posting has several points of truth based on experience, fact and observation. As a former collegiate athlete, I once enjoyed the benefits of being physically fit. 10 years removed in my early 30's, I am now attempting to achieve a balance of both fitness and a physically healthy lifestyle. Intersecting both fitness and wellness (health) has been a challenge for me that crossfit has inspired.
Along the lines of the Aviation Training manual from 1944, the physical readiness of the country's citizens reveals much about its sense of priorities. I also wonder where our Great Republic stands on mental and moral fitness as well?
It think you have to look at the source and timing of that quote. It was from someone in effect in charge of physical conditioning for some part of the Navy, during World War 2.
Gymnastics and tumbling, in the modern world, to my understanding, was most significantly developed by the Prussians. Quite obviously, Hitler and the Third Reich focussed intensively on physical perfection, and gymnastics was a part of that, again, to my understanding.
The quote is in effect tying decadence to physical inactivity. The best definition of decadence that I have seen is Jacque Barzun's: "When people accept futility and the absurb as normal, the culture is decadent."
Presumably, decadent cultures will inevitably be overrun by vigorous, meaning-centric cultures with clear values and shared belief and ritual structures. The author probably believed the Nazis to represent such a culture. He was also probably pissed off at what he perceived as burocratic intransigence within the Navy.
I believe what he said was hyperbolic. If you are a farmer, or a plainsman, or anyone who WORKS for a living, you are in shape. Period. African tribesman, Australian Aborigines, Afghans.
In Greece you had a landed elite that was taken care of by slaves, and protected by a military whose composition I frankly don't know. But I think it is safe to say that their decline resulted from the loss of military battles. Military weakness generally results from political weakness, which historically quite often was the result of decadence. A lack of shared values, and military leaders who feel a sense of futility defending people who hold them in contempt. Political leaders who ask miracles from people who cannot deliver them.
The center breaks down, and the culture follows it.
In science fiction, advanced beings are envisioned often as creatures with large heads and atrophied bodies which are no longer needed. What I'm seeing are people with metaphorically large heads, and OBESE bodies. In both cases, though, the body is not needed, strictly speaking, for survival.
Most IT geeks I meet are overweight. It's not a problem, if the Skittles and donuts keep them going long enough to get the job done. Technology in the modern world reduces the negative impact of lack of physical fitness. It's historically unique.
Anyway, that's my rant. Not sure if it flows, but hopefully it mostly makes sense.
I'm interested in the references you mentioned (as was someone else). I started a thread in the discussion board under "Fitness" (Obesity epidemic: Fact or Fiction?). Any ones you think are the best to look at? Thanks!