Technology & Obesity: The Real Modern Warfare

I was originally planning on writing this out in APA format, but failed miserably. Instead, I fell back to my original MLA format to ensure that I didn’t massacre my paper. Aside from that, here’s my first “short” essay concerning the obesity epidemic in America.


Technology has brought Americans, and people around the world, a great means of entertainment, convenience and new forms of communication. These technological advances have stretched from vehicular and air transportation, cell phone devices, video games, computers, and a plethora of new gadgets coming out daily. Unfortunately, as our lives become simpler through the assistance of technology, another event is occurring where the waist sizes of Americans is continuing to increase. This dilemma ultimately leads to the issue that there is a connection between the continuing development of modern technology, and the rising obesity epidemic. It is not until we address the issue of Americans spending too much time stationary, inactive, and glued to an electronic device, will we finally be able to come to a resolution.

If we were to go back in time one hundred years, we would come to the realization that we burned more calories and were a lot more physically active back then, than we are today. In an interview, Professor Bauman of the University of Sydney in Australia, talks about the differences between our previous and modern-day lifestyles: “We come to work in almost any vocation and we sit. And we sit for eight hours and then we get up and we sit in the motorcar, you know, in automobile and we go home. When we arrive at home, we sit in front of the television. We have frozen TV dinners. We have pre-prepared, prepackaged food that doesn’t require energy to collect it. We don’t hunt, [ sic ] cook it. It’s mostly just put in microwaves and simple systems” (Silberner). As our lives become less strenuous, and less active, the more-likely it is for us to become obese. Instead of foraging for food in the forests, or hunting wild game, we forage at the grocery stores for meals that have already been prepared, or the most edible and perfect looking fruits and vegetables. According to an article published by JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, “A change in the volume of daily physical activity may account for this apparent discrepancy. Increasingly, leisure time activities are more sedentary, with television watching, video games, and personal computing among the most popular pastimes. Further, people in industrialized countries are expending less energy in activities of daily living, and at work” (Andersen 938). This leads to the primary example of what is collectively wrong with American and most western societies. We are surrounded by so much technology these days, that we virtually have no need for manual labor. Instead of walking or biking to school, or work, we ride a car or bus. Instead of washing dishes, watering the lawn, cooking and preparing food, we have washing machines, timed sprinklers, microwaves and fast-food restaurant chains (Misra 521).

According to a census that documented the demographics of the United States, between 1902 and 2002, “At the beginning of the century, half of the U.S. population was less than 22.9 years old. At the century’s end, half of the population was more than 35.3 years old, the country’s highest median age ever” ( Hobbs, 1 ). As adults, we make up the majority of this country, however, we are lacking in our responsibilities to set the right example for our youth. Parents, especially, should be aware of the on-going problem with obesity in America, and should not only be educating their children, but also assisting in allowing them the opportunity for an active lifestyle. Statistics show that 26% of children in the United States, not to include the non-Hispanic black children, watch 4 or more hours of television every day, and that there is a connection between the amount of time a child spends in front of the television, their physical activity, and overall body composition. “Children who watched more television and were less likely to participate in vigorous activity tended to have higher BMIs [ body mass index ]” ( Anderson 941 ). Technology, however, is not only affecting our body compositions, but it’s also affecting the way we think and use our brains. Nicholas Carr mentions during his time on National Public Radio, “Neuroscientists and psychologists have discovered that, even as adults, our brains are very plastic, [ … ] They’re very malleable, they adapt at the cellular level to whatever we happen to be doing. And so the more time we spend surfing, and skimming, and scanning … the more adept we become at that mode of thinking” (“The Shallows”: This Is Your Brain Online). As a society that’s becoming more dependent on technology, our bodies aren’t the only things lacking activity, but our brains are lacking proper stimuli, as well. Take for example, what life would be like as a child, before television. Before TV, your imagination was your limitation when playing outside. Today, however, children are more-limited by what they see on TV. Growing up before television was invented, a child could play outside, climb the highest tree to feel like Superman, but today, a normal child would take what he’s seen and limit it to the fact that Superman wouldn’t fly so low to the ground. This is not to say that children today are less imaginative, but clearly shows that it’s harder to imagine when you’ve seen the limitless power on television, and have come to the true realization of limits of the human body. This could also be a factor as to why children are drawn to watching television and playing video games, more than they are to creatively playing outside.

In a study that compared the physical activity of Canadian and American children, a group of kids that ranged in ages 6 to 12 were given pedometers to keep track of the average number of steps they took on a daily basis. The kids wore the pedometers for 4 days, and the results showed that Amish school boys averaged 19,100  steps per day, while the American boys surveyed averaged 13,200 steps per day (Bassett 833). This study concluded that Americans came in sixth, out of seven countries. This is an unfortunate sign for the youth of our nation, as it becomes evident that American children are less active than children from other countries of the world. Although I believe that it’s important that we inform these kids (Andersen 942), I believe it’s just as important, if not more important to ensure that adults and parents are also made aware. “Parents must know the health benefits of regular physical activity and how exercise contributes to quality of life in order to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives and those of all family members. Moreover, parents should teach their children that proper physical activity is a fundamental part of normal healthy living. This commitment provides an incentive,sets an example, and creates in children a positive attitude toward physical activity. Parents and other family members must support each other’s exercise habits by sharing responsibilities such as child care, food preparation, and shopping” (Fletcher). Growing up in an unhealthy family, it can be difficult for a child to choose to change their lifestyle when the rest of the family is content in the lifestyle they are currently in. Parents need to understand the role that they play in the healthy development of their own children.

Although technology has assisted us to live a richer lifestyle, and has even assisted in curing ailments and diseases that would have killed hundreds, if not millions in previous eras, too much of this dependency can be detrimental to our society.  Take for example, “The Internet [is] an immeasurably powerful computing system, [and] is subsuming most of our other intellectual technologies. It’s becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV,” (Carr) but it will never be able to subsequently replace the human bodies’ need for physical, calorie burning, cardiological and respiratory activity.  Although it’s highly unlikely for Americans to return to an agrarian lifestyle, it’s important that we realize that the inactive lifestyles we lead today need to be corrected, so that we ensure a healthier future (Bassett, 834).  We have an obligation, as Americans, to ensure that the future generations of our country, live longer and healthier lives than that of its previous generations.

Within the last century, Americans have gone from a society that thrived on manual labor, to a society that depends on technology on a daily basis. We depend on technology to handle our money, to predict the weather, to wake us up in the morning, to help us socialize, and to get us to wherever we need to go that day. Growing up in a generation like this, brings true meaning to the proverb most Americans grew up hearing, and that is: Too much of a good thing, is a bad thing. Although technology has assisted us in a lot of ways, it is directly connected to the obesity epidemic plaguing America. Grandparents often spoke of their youth and having to walk a mile to get to school, and it wasn’t too far from the truth. Americans today, rely on so much technology that it prevents us from getting the proper exercise our bodies need.  In order for us to change this ongoing problem, we need to start today, by limiting the amount of time consumed in front of a television or computer monitor, and spending that time doing something active. As Americans we have an obligation to our future generations by ensuring they live a long and healthy life. In order to do this, however, we need to ensure that they spend their time outside, playing, exploring and living, instead of spending it indoors on a couch or chair in front of an electronic device.

References available via request.