Fitness Magazine

Longevity Vs. Morbidity (Ill Health)

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Nina 

Longevity vs. Morbidity (Ill Health)

Ice by Philip Amdal

“Stated succinctly, lower mortality is being replaced by higher morbidity (ill health).” —Daniel Lieberman, from The Story of the Human Body
For some time now I’ve been meaning to write about the difference between longevity (the number of years you live) and morbidity (the number of years you spend in ill health). I think it’s an important topic because morbidity, not longevity, is the issue we’re trying to address here on this blog. I’ve definitely had people challenge me about the longevity issue, saying for example, that if overweight people live just as long as thinner people, what’s the problem? Well, the answer is that the number of years you live is not the whole story. It’s also important to consider what your quality of life might be during your lifetime, especially your later years.
“As more people are living longer and fewer are dying young from diseases caused by infections or insufficient food, exponentially more middle-aged and elderly people are suffering from chronic noninfectious diseases that used to be rare or unknown.” —Daniel Lieberman
As I’m currently reading a book by Daniel Lieberman called The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease that considers this very issue from the point of view of human evolution, I decided that now would be a good time to take on the topic of longevity vs. morbidity. (Hey, it’s always easier to write about something when I’ve got lots of handy quotes from an expert, in this case a professor of human evolutionary biology and the Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences at Harvard.)
Here is how the book describes the current epidemic of ill health (morbidity) in the developed world:
“Cosseted by an embarrassment of riches, a majority of adults in developed countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom are unfit and overweight, and the prevalence of childhood obesity is skyrocketing globally, presaging billions more unfit and obese people in the decades to come. Poor fitness and excess weight, in turn, are accompanied by heart disease, strokes, and various cancers, as well as a multitude of costly, chronic illness, such as type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.” —Daniel Lieberman
Throughout the book, Lieberman talks about how human beings evolved to live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, one that includes being very physically active (we evolved for endurance walking and running), eating lots of fruits and vegetables and other unprocessed foods (rather than quickly metabolized high-processed foods), and experiencing stress as an acute, episodic reaction rather than a chronic state. Our bodies are simply not built to handle being sedentary for years on end, a regular surfeit of calories, and/or a chronically stressful lifestyle.
And for the last couple of years, we’ve been on a mission to let you know the various ways that regular yoga practice can help with the morbidity that is becoming associated with aging in the developing world. Although they won’t turn you back into a hunter-gatherer, the yoga solutions we’ve been offering on this blog for the last couple of years will help you move back in the right direction. A regular asana practice is a great way to return to being physical active, one that helps you with strength, flexibility, balance and agility. Yoga’s stress management tools, including meditation, breath practices, and stress-reducing poses help reduce chronic stress associated with many serious illnesses, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. And for those with weight problems, yoga can be of some help in reducing the stress that can cause overeating and the especially dangerous abdominal fat, allowing you increase your will power, and teaching you to be more mindful in your eating habits.

“Just as this is not the best of all possible worlds, your body is not the best of all possible bodies. But it’s the only one you’ll ever have, and it’s worth enjoying, nurturing, and protecting. “ —Daniel Lieberman

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