Saturday, January 20, 2007

Why Are We Less Fit Than our Ancestors? Amish Offer Clues

Old-Time Fitness in Old-Order Amish
Why Are We Less Fit Than our Ancestors? Amish Offer Clues
By Daniel DeNoon
WebMD Medical News Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD
on Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Jan. 7, 2004 -- Where did our fitness go? A look at an old-order Amish community offers a clue.

If you randomly select three American adults, you're likely looking at one obese person and one overweight person. But are we really less fit than our meat and potatoes, gravy-eating ancestors?

Yes, say University of Tennessee researcher David R. Bassett, PhD, and colleagues. Bassett's team didn't have a time machine, so they did the next best thing. They went to an old-order Amish community in southern Ontario, Canada, and asked for help.

Like other Amish communities, these people shun modern conveniences and power machinery. Unlike some other Amish, most of this Ontario community still farms for a living. Bassett asked 98 of these men and women to wear a modern step-counting device for seven days. The study participants also told him details about their daily physical activities.

Even though they ate the high-fat, high-sugar diet typical of pre-World War II Americans -- meat, potatoes, gravy, eggs, garden vegetables, bread, pies, and cakes -- the Ontario Amish were remarkably fit. Only 4% were obese and only 26% were overweight.

How did they do it? Hard work -- and lots of foot power. Their weekly exercise was equivalent to that of long-distance runners. Men averaged 18,425 steps a day. Women averaged 14,196 daily steps.

"The Amish were able to show us just how far we've fallen in the last 150 years or so in terms of the amount of physical activity we typically perform," Bassett says in a news release. "Their lifestyle indicates that physical activity played a critical role in keeping our ancestors fit and healthy."

The findings appear in the January issue of Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.


At 10:51 AM, Blogger msdramateacherlady said...

Very interesting article. Maybe we should all take the hint.


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