By Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.
“Highland four, nine four, two six.” That was how I recited my phone number when I was five years old. Back then (in Miami, Florida) the first two numbers of one’s phone number were “said” with letters. I also remember the telephone - just one for the whole house. It was black (of course) with a rotary dial (of course.) It had a special place - a squatty, black phone stand, with a small seat and a slim slot to hold one phone book, yellow pages and all.
Back in the sixties, no one ran or racewalked for fitness. We ate red meat five nights a week (chicken one night, and frozen fish sticks another) and plenty of high fat dairy products. Yet, Americans were significantly trimmer in those days. Back then, about 20% of the American population were considered significantly overweight. Today, even though there are an abundance of fitness centers and fat-free foods, the overweight/obese population approaches 65%.
The one black rotary phone was part of the reason. Remember when the phone rang? The whole family would race from all over the house to see who was first to grab it. Today, not only do we have a phone in every room, we carry our cordless phone or cell phone around with us. Heaven forbid, we should have to take a few steps to answer it.
In my house, we three girls used to be the remote control for the TV. We’d be playing in our rooms when we’d hear from the recliner, “Girls, whose turn is it to change the channel?” We took turns at pretending that we didn’t hear our father, although not for long. One of us would run in, (mad as a six-year old can be at having our playtime disturbed), change the channel and run back to continue our game. There’s not a whole lot of running by kids anymore. There’s much more sitting and watching.
Remember the days before the time saving devices - electric can openers, electric pencil sharpeners, electric garage door openers? As our parents would drive up to the house, when we got old enough, we’d take turns at jumping out of the car to open the non-electric garage door. Ugh!
We played outside after school, rather than playing computer games. If we didn’t play outside, our mother would find us something to do. There was a great dance show on TV at 4:00 PM in Miami called, “Where the Action Is.” The dancers were teenagers in white, “go-go” boots and oh-so-cool jumpsuits. The show appealed to elementary school age kids and I was in fourth grade. However, the only time I caught it was at friends’ homes who had mothers less observant than mine. My mother’s rule was that kids play outside or do homework until dinnertime.
Even if you run or racewalk an hour a day, that’s only one hour out of 24. There are 16 other waking hours in the day that we can find ways to be more active and hence rev up our metabolism and burn more calories.
Do you know anyone who saves up piles at the bottom of the stairs like a squirrel saves up nuts? Then, at the end of the day, they only have to take one trip up the stairs? Don’t be a squirrel. If you’re lucky enough to have stairs in your house, look for opportunities to walk up and down all day long.
If you don’t have stairs at home, at least walk them at work or when you stay at hotels. I always ask for the 4th or 5th floor at a hotel so that I can walk the stairs. The only time I take the elevator is once when I check in and once when I check out and that's only because of too many suitcases that I bring.
Modern technology has made our lives way too efficient and as a result - our bodies way too fat. Look for ways to be inefficient and use up energy all day long. What you lose in efficiency you'll happily gain in health and fitness.