Millennials have it rough in many respects. They earn less than their counterparts in previous generations, they’re saddled with high amounts of student debt, and of course, they had to come of age in an era in which America has been wrestling with global wars and deep economic crises.
On the flip side, we’re also living in a highly advanced technological time. Relatively few of us go hungry, and overall, we have a very high standard of living. But there is one more wrench that life is going to throw at the millennial generation, which will make things harder on younger generations than it was on older ones.
As millennials get older, and younger generations enter the teenage years and childhood, the upper crust of the millennial generation is already headed toward middle age. And it’s during that time that physical fitness starts to deteriorate, and that we have to pay closer attention to our bodies. The bad news is that studies are indicating staying fit is going to be much more difficult on millennials than it was on the Baby Boomers, or Generation X.
“Our study results suggest that if you are 25, you’d have to eat even less and exercise more than those older, to prevent gaining weight,” says Professor Jennifer Kuk in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science. “However, it also indicates there may be other specific changes contributing to the rise in obesity beyond just diet and exercise.”
These are the results of a study that was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and conducted by researchers at York University, and was featured by ScienceDaily. All told, dietary data for more than 36,000 Americans was collected and analyzed between 1971 and 2008, which was compared and contrasted with exercise data for more than 14,000 between 1988 and 2006.
What researchers found is that millennials, and the generations coming up after them, are simply going to have to place more importance on leading a healthy lifestyle, because weight gain is going to be a more widespread problem, and weight loss is going to be more difficult than ever before.
“We observe that for a given amount of self-reported food intake, people will be about 10 per cent heavier in 2008 than in 1971, and about five per cent heavier for a given amount of physical activity level in 1988 than 2006,” said Ruth Brown, the study’s lead researcher. “These secular changes may in part explain why we have seen the dramatic rise in obesity.”
And that “dramatic rise in obesity” hasn’t exactly been a secret. Over the past 60 years or so, Americans have, on average, become much larger. There are a variety of reasons for that, but as Brown indicates above, part of it is the fact that people are simply eating more and more, and exercising less.
You can chalk it up to one of the advantages of living in modern times. We don’t have to flee for our lives from wild animals like our ancestors did, and instead, spend more time worrying about fantasy football than where our next meal is going to come from. It’s a comfortable, cushy life, and one that is taking a toll on our collective health.
Kuk says that there are a number of other factors that are going to make things even more difficult for millennials that other generations didn’t have to deal with as well, including environmental pollution, stress, medication, and even certain work schedules.
“This is because weight management is actually much more complex than just ‘energy in’ versus ‘energy out,'” Kuk said. “That’s similar to saying your investment account balance is simply your deposits subtracting your withdrawals and not accounting for all the other things that affect your balance like stock market fluctuations, bank fees or currency exchange rates.”
Fitness looks to be another hurdle millennials are going to have to overcome as time marches on. This simple response to the York researchers’ findings is that millennials will need to eat less and work out more, and keep a sharper eye on their overall health. With the ubiquity of technology and new personal health trackers, that could be easy.
It’ll be maintaining discipline — something that millennials have notoriously had trouble with — that will be the trick.
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