The Physical Decline of Modern Man
The physical state of modern man is in complete shambles. I know that this isn’t ground breaking news to anyone who has actually stepped outside of their front door, but this observation is far from being merely anecdotal anymore. A recent study indicates that by the year 2020, 8 in 10 men in the UK will be considered obese or overweight. In other words, we are just 7 years away from a situation where 80% of the male populace in the UK can be considered an utter disgrace to their gender.
But it wasn’t always like this. There was a time when the average man who walked the earth wouldn’t die of a massive heart attack after sprinting 100 meters. His gut didn’t stick out further than his chest. He could do more than one pull up. In fact, there was a time when the average man was muscular, lean, strong, and could probably kill you with his bare hands (or a sharpened stick).
The story of our feeble sloth is written in our bones. Studies conducted comparing our bones to those of fossil humans reveal that we have lost up to 40% of our bone mass and strength over the past 2 million years. Interestingly, the cause is not genetic. Case in point: the bulbous ends of our bones that form the joints, which are known to be genetically controlled, are still the same size in us as they are in our ancestor Homo erectus. However, where we have lost bone mass has largely been along the shafts of our long bones. This is due to declining levels of muscular load being placed on them. Fortunately, our bones can grow thicker in response to repeated muscular stress. For example, studies indicate that professional tennis players display thicknesses in their upper arm bones similar to that of our ancestor Homo erectus.
The evidence of prehistoric man’s physical supremacy over his modern brethren isn’t just limited to his bones. For example, archaeologists in Australia studying a set of 23,000 year old fossilized tracks in mud have determined that one individual (who was roughly 6’5”) was running at incredible speeds. The archaeologists calculated his stride length and determined his speed to be 23 miles per hour. Just to put this number into perspective, Usain Bolt (the fastest man on the planet) can hit speeds up to 27 miles per hour during a 100 meter race. Remember, our prehistoric ancestor was running bare foot in the mud!
The incredible athleticism displayed by the prehistoric Australian sprinter likely had more to do with ontogeny than “genetics.” Ontogeny is the process by which an organism grows by interaction with its environment. Prehistoric conditions were brutal, no question. But it was these conditions that allowed prehistoric man to develop such physical capabilities. It was a necessity.
Ontogeny is the same reason why modern man is a physical embarrassment. We have no need to exert ourselves very much these days. Most of our lives are spent sitting in front of a computer in the office. Then we sit in our car and drive home, only to get back and sit on the couch and watch television. Couple this inactivity with a diet rich in calories and you have the recipe for modern man: a shambling mass of flesh that couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag.
There’s no way the average office worker is carrying that much muscle
But the beauty of all this is that we can change. We can mold our bodies however we want. Do you want to build a strong, athletic body? Go do heavy back squats supersetted with 50 meter sprints until you puke. In other words, change your environmental stimulus. There’s no excuse. It is time to stem the tide of suck.
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