Working Out of Balance
According to a recent study, the nation's obesity epidemic can be blamed in no small part on the fact that most Americans today do very little physical labor in the course of a day. This compares with, say, 100 years ago, when work was conducted mainly on farms and in factories rather than in office parks and high-rises. Even as late as 1960, the start of the report's focus, half of working Americans had physically demanding jobs; only about 1 in 5 do today.
Of course, I immediately thought about what this means for people with diabetes. We've all been told that exercise is key to managing our condition, but in the course of taking pills and shots and worrying about carbs and saturated fats, it's easy to forget what a powerful treatment it can be to get moving.
I see it every week, courtesy of my continuous glucose monitor: On Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I do a tough strength-training and cardio workout in the morning, the peaks of my blood glucose are markedly muted, more like mesas than Alps. For breakfast and lunch, at least, I have to remember to take less mealtime insulin than usual so I don't risk going low. In a sense, the exercise is replacing the medicine.
And yet here is this new research, demonstrating once again how our society has cut physical activity—something we need almost as much as vitamins and minerals and sunlight and fresh air—out of the daily routine.
Would we all be happier toiling in dangerous 19th-century sweatshops? Clearly not. But it's just as clear that sitting at desks and in cars and on sofas all day imperils our health. The question is: What are we willing to do about it?