The perils of a wealthy culture are arguably outweighed by the blessings it enjoys, but much ink has been necessarily spilled in exploring the latter, particularly where health and wellness are concerned. As of this article having been authored, a majority of American adults (and frightening numbers of American children) are categorically overweight.
Of those, a disconcerting number qualify as being medically obese, or overweight to such an extent as to virtually guarantee for themselves a range of health problems, including (though not limited to): cancer, osteoarthritis, diabetes mellitus type II, and fatally high blood pressure.
Added to this is a pandemic of physical inactivity which seems to plague young and old alike, despite the seemingly limitless energy so often associated with childhood and the restlessness of later adolescence. So, then, with these inextricably interconnected dilemmas now front of mind, the question is begged: Which is a Worse Problem; Physical Inactivity or Obesity?
Neither amounts to an ideal way of life, and each runs the risk of leading to the other, but is there a way of quantifying the negative aspects by which each is characterized? What has brought our culture to this point? Prosperity? Rampant laziness? Aggressive marketing of nutritionally-bankrupt snack foods? Is it the fate of every comfortable culture to walk itself into a gravy-laden cemetery?
To be sure, the fate of the majority is not inherently the fate of us all. Pockets of physically fit resistance do exist throughout the country, with cities such as Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and Scottsdale defying the national trend towards perpetual weight gain. But the overall trajectory does not bode well for a healthy, competitive, and economically viable republic.
With respect to the aforementioned resistance, a few common threads appear to tie together the aforementioned healthy (or healthier) exceptions; namely, these exceptions are either nationally regarded as possessing a penchant for outdoor sports, excursions, activities, et cetera (this applies to Denver and Salt Lake City), or they tend to possess a cultural fixation upon physical appearance (Los Angeles, Scottsdale). Regardless of the underlying reasoning, these “pockets” are characterized by far less in the way of inactivity than are a great many metropolitan areas, with the Southeast and Midwest conversely being regrettably burdened by supporting stereotypes.
It appears that one’s activity level is, at least in part, dependent upon both the local culture of which they are a part and of the opportunity to engage with one’s physical potential in ways stimulating and challenging. Obesity, likewise, tends to make itself known most aggressively in those regions which eschew both physical vanity and recreational athleticism. Also, these regions often, though not exclusively, celebrate a sort “food culture” in which meals are conceptualized with flavor and indulgence serving as the primary aim, rather than a healthy refueling of one’s body.
But the question remains: Which is a Worse Problem; Physical Inactivity or Obesity? The answer is similarly stubborn: these afflictions are so closely intertwined and so strongly linked to factors both cultural and geographic as to render elusive a fair response. Inactivity, which weakens the body and compromises systems ranging from the skeletal to the circulatory, is a blight upon our country. It also leads to weight gain for most and to obesity for many.
Obesity, an ailment which stems from reasons of diet for most, of professional responsibilities for many, and eventually of self-loathing is itself a source of perpetual inactivity. Thus the circular nature of these interrelated problems.
A solution worth considering is a following of healthy examples which comport with one’s sense of better self. Reside in a fairly inactive or food-driven culture? Take note of how more physically fit cultures live and thrive. Incorporate their sensibilities into your own way of life and divorce yourself from those societal elements which have poisoned your mentality, your body.
Active communities explore their surrounding environs in ways both aggressive and sustained, competing with themselves and enjoying themselves in the process. Inactivity gives way to tireless excursion; surplus weight to a lean organism and healthful appearance. The unforgiving circle is banished from one’s existence and the vitality flows freely from that point forth.
Of course, the initial challenge is one of making the choice to live well. This comes at the cost of confronting certain truths, of abandoning certain comforts, of embracing certain risks…but the yields are priceless and will, ideally, render eternally moot the unfortunately necessary question of Which is a Worse Problem; Physical Inactivity or Obesity? You might find yourself asking why the question was necessary to begin with…