Is MAN really that far off from our reality?
Learn more about the animator, Steve Cutts
50 million people in the U.S. — one in four children — don’t know where their next meal is coming from. This is despite our having the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all Americans. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine this issue through the lens of three people who are struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford.
America’s Grim Outlook on Dementia & Obesity & What We Can Do About It
People in our country are losing control of their minds and bodies at an alarmingly escalating rate. Dementia and obesity stand to threaten our nation’s future in so many ways – none of them positive. As these conditions both reach epic proportions, it’s time for us take notice and to start coming up with realistic ways on both an individual and a community level that can help slow the growth of these insidious ailments.
The Dementia Epidemic
Driving back across the country from our annual rock-climbing trip to the Red River Gorge this fall, I tuned into National Public Radio (NPR) for entertainment whenever I could tune a station in. I happened to catch an episode of Talk of Nation called Preparing for the Looming Dementia Crisis. This captivating show contained a frightening statistic from the World Health Organization: 36 million people worldwide suffer from dementia right now, and experts expect that number to double in the next 20 years.
What is dementia? It is not one disease, but rather, a definition that includes an array of aging-associated diseases and conditions characterized by a decline in cognitive and intellectual functions, including Alzheimer’s. The older a population grows, the more people become at risk for dementia. According to the numbers talked about on the show, as the world’s population ages and more and more people live past 65, the incidence of dementia rises – to the point that 80 percent of people who live to be over 85 will suffer from some form of dementia.
People can remain relatively physically healthy while living with dementia for years, which is posing huge demands on the nation’s healthcare system and families as people try to care adequately for their loved ones. As summed up by Stephen Hall in his October 2012 article published in the MIT Technology Review, “We have no effective treatments for dementia, a huge health crisis facing the world. The annual cost of care in the United States alone could reach $1 trillion by 2050.”
The Obesity Epidemic
After listening to this saddening show, we stopped at a typical American-fare sit-down diner for a hamburger. I’d been craving this as a treat, and as a reward for the long hours of driving it seemed like the perfect time and place for it. We ordered a standard meal from the menu that included an appetizer for two and a burger plate. The waitress proceeded to bring out an alarmingly enormous dish of fried vegetables almost simultaneously with two ridiculously huge burgers coupled with fries, recommending to us that we also, “Save room for dessert, because there’s a great new one back there!”
Kevin said, “Are you kidding me?”
We can both eat a lot – don’t get me wrong – but this was an incredible overload of food for a single meal, and the idea of dessert was completely nuts. It was a perfect illustration of how serving sizes have grown with the girth of this nation – or vice versa, more likely. According to the National Restaurant Association, Americans consume one out of every five meals at a restaurant – and if they’re consuming meals like that one and believing that this is a normal and reasonable amount of food to put down in one sitting, it’s no wonder that our country’s waistline is growing by leaps and bounds.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fully one-third of adult Americans are now obese – not simply overweight, but obese. Nearly 70 percent of American adults are overweight, including those who are obese. Obesity brings with it an array of elevated risks for serious, often life-threatening health conditions, such as stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some kinds of cancer. It also burdens the nation’s healthcare system enormously, driving the rising costs of healthcare even higher. And the nation has seen a tremendous increase in obesity in just the last 20 years – with no end in sight.
Where Fitness Fits In
Honestly, it’s pretty easy to forget about or not even recognize the daunting nature of these two major epidemics facing our country when you’re constantly surrounded by the ultra-fit and fitness-conscious people so prevalent in the rock-climbing community. As a climber, I know that I tend to think of climber bodies as the norm – even while another part of me knows this simply isn’t the case. I’m surrounded most of the time, though, by super-fit, toned, healthy individuals of all ages who are as a whole way more informed about making healthy diet and nutrition choices than the general population is. (In fact, as athletes most of us don’t have to and probably shouldn’t follow some of the recommendations made for the general population, but ironically, we’re the ones most likely to embrace them…but that’s an entirely different subject matter). We love to move our bodies so much that most of us have trouble taking enough rest days – quite the opposite situation that most of our fellow Americans wrestle with, so I gather.
All of the above leads me to ask the following: Can we find ways, as individuals and communities (e.g. the climbing community, the yoga community, all of the physically active communities made up of passionate participants), to more actively and effectively involve and include more people in regular physical activities?
To make this happen, we have to be willing to step outside our communities or at the very least, to make our communities more welcoming places to newcomers – places that people want to stay and become a part of, rather than experiment with once or twice and then never come back. We need to try to reach out to others with our much-loved activities, hoping that we can help light their inner fires to reconnect with the joy of human movement and playing. People often need a reason beyond just “getting fitter” to stay engaged in regular physical activity. I believe that working out needs to be fun and feel good for most people to stick with it, instead of viewing exercise as a burden to be endured. The very idea of trying out a new physical activity with little or no fitness, especially when coupled with the often overwhelming prospect of having to lose weight, can lead to not trying at all, or to people giving up on new activities really quickly when the results don’t happen fast enough – especially when all they’re after is weight loss, nothing more. But if the activity has a mentally stimulating component and brings with it an enhanced social network (as both climbing and yoga do, for example), it has the potential to perhaps keep people coming back long enough to reap physical fitness rewards as well – and possibly, to lead to lifelong involvement.
The benefits of engaging in regular physical fitness won’t necessarily just contribute solely to reducing obesity and the risk of obesity-related diseases. Though the association is less clear, a number of respected organizations, studies and institutions, including the Alzheimer’s Association and MayoClinic.com, suggest that it’s possible that regular physical activity might help decrease the onset of and symptoms of dementia, among other lifestyle choices. These other lifestyle factors include staying socially and mentally active – both of which are common factors in many physical exercise programs or activities as well, including both rock climbing and yoga, among others. Being involved in an activity that revolves around physical endeavors often leads to improved diet, too, as a person becomes more educated and health conscious by interacting with others involved, as well as wanting to improve his or her individual ability at the physical activity.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t intend to oversimplify this situation at all or to suggest that just encouraging, inviting, educating and supporting others’ efforts to engage in physical fitness will solve these two major ailments facing our nation. Clearly, a wide array of efforts needs to be made on too many fronts to count in order to start chipping away at these issues. But looking at it from a personal perspective and asking what I (or you) can do to help, it seems so obvious – we need to look beyond our physically fit communities and try to reach out more to the population at large, to get more people engaged in regular physical activities that they enjoy, and to make our communities as welcoming and supportive as possible as we invite and encourage more involvement from people of all ages, abilities and fitness levels.
Stay tuned to prAna Life and my own blog throughout 2013 for more fitness-related entries on crafting a workable and balanced exercise plan to help you follow through with your New Year’s Resolution to get fitter in 2013. Until then, have a happy, healthy and safe new year!
~ Alli Rainey, prAna Ambassador
Learn more about Alli
Compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline through engagement with the community. These are the values that contribute to peace and harmony locally, nationally and globally. We believe that most people embrace and recognize the importance of these values, but often don’t know how to access the information and guidance they seek to bring them into their lives. We will help them do that.
The end of the long-count Mayan calendar on December 21st has provoked apocalyptic fears, doomsday books and films, parodies, and is even triggering outbreaks of panic, as recently reported in a December 1st New York Times article on Russia’s end-of-the-world anxiety. By contrast, the far more positive and forward-looking Birth 2012 movement organized by The Shift Network offers a creative and hopeful alternative. Rather than feed fears, the movement aims to turn this marker point into a “birth day” for a new era that is healthy, sustainable, and peaceful. The conveners recognize the power of this once-in-five-thousand-years turning point to unify people globally around a commitment to create a world that works for all.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects millions of people around the world, including over 30% of American adults. Often referred to as “the silent killer” for its tendency to wreak havoc on the body without producing symptoms, hypertension is the most common cardiovascular disease and a leading cause of stroke. If you have any concerns, get checked by your doctor. There likely won’t be any other way of knowing if you’re at risk.
This pervasive and dangerous condition is at the heart of today’s episode of Urban Yogis on The Chopra Well YouTube channel. Ashtanga yoga instructor Eddie Stern has teamed up with fellow instructor Blake Seidenshaw and physical therapy professor Marshall Hagins at Long Island University (LIU) to conduct a study on the effects of yoga on patients suffering from hypertension. As of yet, yoga has not definitively been proven to be an effective treatment for high blood pressure, on its own, though evidence does suggest it may lower blood pressure by reducing stress and increasing flexibility and weight loss. Stern, Seidenshaw, and Hagins came together in the hope of finding clear, consistent evidence to prove what, until now, most yoga practitioners only felt and observed in their own lives without the authority of science to support them. That isn’t to say anecdotal evidence doesn’t carry its own weight – there’s a reason over 20 million people in the United States have practiced yoga.
If science comes to support what practitioners have felt for decades, it could have a major impact on our health. So many of Eddie’s students, like the patients at LIU, have already noticed the positive effects. Likely it has something to do with lifestyle. Though the cause of hypertension remains undetermined, the condition is often associated with lack of exercise, being overweight, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, and a diet high in saturated fat and salt. Chronic stress also contributes to hypertension, which may be unwelcome news to people with high-intensity, fast-paced lifestyles.
During stressful situations blood pressure spikes, returning to its normal level after the experience passes. People who are constantly stressed, though, may be at a greater risk of raising their blood pressure in the long-run, especially if they tend to smoke, overeat, or exercise less when they are under a lot of stress. As Eddie’s students can attest to, yoga steps in to provide the tools for self-soothing and mindfulness, so critical to stress-reduction. Hopefully in the near future we’ll know even more about the amazing medical and emotional benefits of a regular yoga practice. But until then, we’ll take the smiles and calm, glowing faces as proof enough.
This one never fails to inspire… what are you going to do today?
Arthur Boorman was a disabled veteran of the Gulf War for 15 years, and was told by his doctors that he would never be able to walk on his own, ever again. He stumbled upon an article about Diamond Dallas Page doing Yoga and decided to give it a try — he couldn’t do traditional, higher impact exercise, so he tried yoga and sent an email to Dallas telling him his story. Dallas was so moved by his story, he began emailing and speaking on the phone with Arthur throughout his journey – he encouraged Arthur to keep going and to believe that anything was possible. Even though doctors told him walking would never happen, Arthur was persistent. He fell many times, but kept going.
Arthur was getting stronger rapidly, and he was losing weight at an incredible rate! Because of DDP’s specialized workout, he gained tremendous balance and flexibility – which gave him hope that maybe someday, he’d be able to walk again. His story is proof, that we cannot place limits on what we are capable of doing, because we often do not know our own potential. Neither Arthur, nor Dallas knew what he would go on to accomplish, but this video speaks for itself. In less than a year, Arthur completely transformed his life. If only he had known what he was capable of, 15 years earlier. Do not waste any time thinking you are stuck – you can take control over your life, and change it faster than you might think. Hopefully this story can inspire you to follow your dreams – whatever they may be.
Anything is Possible!
Not For Sale released a revealing report on slavery in the apparel industry, featuring supply chain ratings for more than 300 brands. Modern-day slavery, which currently affects more than 30 million people, is used throughout the production of many clothing products sold on U.S. shelves. The report, “Apparel Industry Trends: From Farm to Factory,” uses publicly available information and data self-reported by companies to rate how brands are addressing child and forced labor in their supply chains. View the full report.
As U.S. sales for Fair Trade Certified products grew 75 percent in 2011, consumers increasingly want to know the impact behind their purchases. The global slave trade is complex and product supply chains remain opaque, making it difficult for even the most informed consumers to know how their purchases are connected to labor abuses. Not For Sale makes the rankings available to shoppers online and through a smart phone application, Free2Work, as a tangible way to advocate against modern-day slavery in day-to-day life.
“To create true breakthrough in the fight against slavery, we need systemic change,” said David Batstone, Not For Sale President and Co-Founder. “Free2Work and the Apparel Industry Trends Report equip everyone to advocate for that change and make it a part of their everyday life.”
The report released in a presentation on Nov. 13 in Ankara, Turkey at the United Nations General Assembly expert group meeting on “Human Trafficking & Global Supply Chains.” The meeting included corporate, government, labor union, and NGO leaders from around the globe. It is the first comprehensive report on forced and child labor in international supply chains.
Not For Sale created the report to urge the clothing sector forward by offering best practice examples from industry leaders. It also points out brands that are fueling modern-day slavery through their negligence: Carter’s, Quiksilver, Walmart, and Aramark all receive “D” or “F” ratings and need to make significant improvements.
Ratings only indicate how companies are addressing the particular issue of modern slavery and do not reflect the overall measure of general supply chain working conditions. For example, while Adidas receives a “B,” campaigning is currently underway in response to the company’s refusal to pay over a million dollars in wages owed to Indonesian workers.
This is Not For Sale’s first full-length Free2Work report, and the organization has plans to release similar industry trend reports in upcoming months. To date, Not For Sale has released in-depth grades and profiles on over 500 brands in industries like apparel, food and electronics.
~ via NotForSaleCampaign.org
As of 2011, roughly 423,000 children in the United States were living in foster care homes. Today the numbers are much the same. Nearly 20% enter foster care due to physical abuse; 65% leave without a place to live; and less than 3% end up going to college.
Anthony, from the latest episode of Urban Yogis on The Chopra Well, is an exception to the trend. He grew up in and out of foster care, back and forth between his mother and various temporary homes. As he explains in the episode, his mother never fed him or provided him with basic life needs, let alone the more intangible necessities of love, comfort, and security. He was never with her long before being sent to another foster home, making for a fairly unstable childhood.
With the help of his final foster family, as well his own drive and will to survive, Anthony emerged from his youth with a clear vision for the future. He’s proud of the life he has created for himself — living independently in a supportive housing unit, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Actuarial Science, and aspiring to get a Ph.D. in Mathematics. Anthony didn’t just survive his childhood; and he isn’t just “getting by” now. He has discovered his passion and ambition. He has embarked on a difficult and rewarding path, made all the more remarkable by his challenging childhood. Through his weekly yoga practice, Anthony further refines this path by learning to pay attention to his moods, focus his mind, and discover strength in every subtle movement and breath.
How does a young person emerge from such a difficult childhood and thrive in adulthood? What facilitates this resilience and ambition? It could be that some experience along the way provided just enough of a glimmer of hope – a supportive social worker, a beautiful song, a loving foster family, an inspiring lesson from history. In Anthony’s case, a large part of his success comes from the opportunity to live alone and get acquainted with his own strength and competence. Yoga has played a large role, as well. As his instructor, Eddie Stern, says, yoga allows us to slow down and focus on our movement and breath. Through this, we come to see that we are individuals with minds and bodies and souls of our own. We aren’t just witnesses of a world going on around us, but rather conscious agents of our own life story. Past, present and future aside, Anthony is his own man. And there is great pride in that.