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The best of times, the worst of times

Today we can have the healthiest lifestyle in history—or the worst. It is up to us to choose.

photos_articles_01.jpgFor health and fitness, it is the best of times and the worst of times. Many educated Baby Boomers have traded martini lunches for time at the gym and watch their diets carefully. They jog and cycle, power walk, and carefully apply sunscreen. Smoking has become a social taboo. Young people hit the gym to burn energy, look good, and attract possible partners.

At the same time, there is an obesity epidemic that reaches down to childhood, where kids eat fast food and spend hours indoors playing video games and watching television. One of many health consequences is the epidemic of Type II diabetes.

In many ways our food supply is the safest and most varied in history, and yet there are disturbing trends. If you read the labels of packaged foods, you find salt, sugar, and a host of chemicals “to preserve freshness.” Monoculture and overuse of chemicals are destroying the nutrients in soils. Crops are bred to look good and be robust enough to travel long distances, while flavour and nutrient value have become secondary.

Animals are bred to produce the right cuts of meat and pumped with hormones and antibiotics, products that end up in the tissues of the consumer (pun intended).

In opposition to these trends, organic farms and foodsellers are on the rise. While it is difficult to sift through the various certifications of “natural” and “organic” food, the supply and demand for these products is increasing.

Grocery chains have larger “natural” sections in their stores. Chains like Whole Foods in the United States are becoming corporate behemouths. In Atlantic Canada firms like Pete’s Frootique are success stories in their own right, and local farmers markets are busier than ever.

Also, there is a boom in health and fitness related information and products.
The technology of bicycles is apparently advancing faster than almost any other product, including computer hardware.

The Internet makes it easy to stay informed on health and fitness issues, although it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff–and to keep up with the studies: one day coffee is good for you, the next day it isn’t, and the next day it is.

Nonetheless, this is the best time in history for people who want to look after their fitness and health. We have more information and more products and services, and above all, more choice.

While modern careers can be very stressful and spending hours at the computer is not healthy, it is possible to take charge of one’s life in a way that our predecessors never could: fishing, farming, and lumbering were inherently dangerous, and there was no social safety net for those who needed it.

Today it is possible to create your own career, to set your own goals and unique way of attaining them (hiring an executive coach can help). Technology can bring the world to your doorstep, and you can set up an ergonomic workspace. You can set your own schedule and leave the office for some fresh air or to hit the gym (personal trainer at your side).

If we truly seize it, we have a freedom to follow our dreams and to create our days that even our wealthiest ancestors could never have imagined.

It can be the best of times or the worst of times. It is up to us to choose.

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