Have you ever noticed that what we consider to be normal today is really anything but? Normal usually means sleep-deprived, overfed yet under nourished, overstressed and inactive. Let’s take a quick look at the current lifestyle of the average American adult, then let’s talk about what we can do about it.
Sleep: According to the National Sleep Foundation, Americans now get an average of about 6.7 hours of sleep on a typical weekday. That’s roughly an hour of deficit each day. The cumulative sleep debt generated brings about quasi-endless undesirable consequences, from cardio-vascular disease to higher stress and lower cognitive performance.
Food: Harvard’s School of Public Health tells us that normal today is limited to only three portions of fruit and vegetables. Compared to the recommended 7 to 13 servings daily, our vitamin and fiber deficiencies are quite large, bringing about greater likelihood of gastrointestinal disease, high blood pressure and cancer, amongst others.
Mood: A very common theme today across all age groups is the feeling of being spread too thin. All generations say their stress levels are too high to be healthy, and the Stress in America Survey findings show that stress is still on the rise. High stress is associated with depression, weight gain, insomnia and even brain cell loss, to name only a few consequences.
Exercise: Study after study have shown that over 80 percent of Americans do not get their recommended exercise each week. While it is considered normal to be inactive, we’d like to ignore the many resulting outcomes, including decreased cognitive ability, increased incidence of depression and accelerated aging process.
In short, normality is a sure road to mediocrity. But together, we can change it.
Creating a New Normal
Think back to the ‘80s, when sitting in the smoking section of a restaurant was the courteous thing to do when there was even just one smoker in a party. Then towards the ‘90s, that norm evolved into the smoker accepting to sit in the non-smoking section out of respect for his smoke-free peers. And today, smoking as a whole is forbidden in most restaurants throughout North America. So with continued education, clear expectations and a growing no-nonsense attitude, we can shift the needle.
As wellness enthusiasts, we can lead the way. As a first step, we need to be intentional, bold and non-apologetic when it comes to our own sleep, food, mood and exercise. Why should we be the ones who "feel bad" because we prefer the salad place to the burger joint, or because we'd rather walk than take a cab? It's time we face those who twist our arms into equaling down with a little more vigor, and a little less cowardice. Not to shame them, but to elevate them.
Let’s stop compromising and following the crowd, because the crowd needs our leadership. Who's with me?
MJ Shaar, MAPP, CPT, is the Founder and Owner of Smarts and Stamina, a company devoted to helping wellness professionals thrive. MJ is the author of Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance.
MJ is regularly featured in the media and in industry conferences. She is available for speaking engagements, training workshops, media commentary, and private wellness coaching. To learn more, contact MJ at mj@SmartsAndStamina.com, or visit www.SmartsAndStamina.com.