Interest levels in health and wellness have skyrocketed in the last few years. From new technology such as Apple Watches and Fitbit wristbands to detect daily movements and calories burned per workout to alkaline-infused water and everything in between, how does this new major lifestyle change play into the sporting world?
They often say health is a generational toolkit often used to dive deeper into trends dating back hundreds of years ago. With that being said, what informed statements can be made regarding today’s wellness craze that are a direct result of the past?
To begin, let’s look at health and wellness trends from the 1900s. The early 1900s saw American people more active than ever. Between the rise of team sports such as football and baseball to the need for workers in factories at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, physical fitness was at an all time high. However, this would be because World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II.
The 1950s saw America finally picking back up momentum as a large baby boom started after soldiers returned from the war, women were able to go back to the homestead and take care of families—an American ideal at the time for many people—and men were left to the handy work. The 50s also saw the rise of organic farming. Organic advocate J.I. Rodale launched Prevention magazine promoting preventative health measures instead of doctor’s offices and medicine due to the healthcare crisis in the country. This new style of wellness also historically coincided with the rise of cigarettes as a new “health craze” that only richer families could buy into. Since many doctors were now on Rodale’s wellness craze, the tobacco revolution began. In the late 1950s, tobacco farmers nationwide launched the Tobacco Industry Research Council to promote the positive outlooks on using tobacco products as well as to disprove any theories that concerned the general public on tobacco usage.
In 1957, another nationwide crisis started to develop. A study on American children and their muscular developments was published with horrifying results. American children were severely under the worldwide standard of fitness with over 50 percent of the study group failing all the tests. Across the pond, European children had drastically different results. Over 90 percent of the group passed the test with flying colors. This shocking revelation boiled down to one thing: technology advancements in America.
Much like the phrase we often hear today from older generations concerning technology having a negative effect on people, technology was the reason for health problems in America. Advancements such as the washing machine made it easier on the body to do household chores and factories were producing farming equipment at an increasing rate which reduced the need for farmers to need such a high number of able-bodied youths to help cultivate the fields.
American President Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the somewhat dilapidating effects on youth and instead of turning a blind eye instilled a program called the Presidential Council on Youth Sports to help bridge this so-called “fitness gap” in the country. The council oversaw an increasing number of placements when it came to organized sports across America by providing communities with more opportunities to get out and play, as well as instilling a sports ethic in children from an early age.
Moving forward half a century to the early 2000s, the 90s supermodel skinny craze was finally ending, marking the end of a very dangerous chapter in American health and wellness. To combat the craze, health and wellness retreats started arising at an all-time high and are continuing to trend upwards. However, this is where the downside to health and wellness begins. More accessibly, families are starting to adopt a general wellness lifestyle due to the cost of medicine, much like Rodale’s teachings in the 1950s.
As a result of the new wellness lifestyle craze and as an effort to combat the effects of childhood obesity, youth sports programs are on the rise. More programs are being put into schools and communities, healthier meals are being served at schools nationwide, and a more lifestyle-based approach to being healthy instead of fad diet trends are being instilled in more families as we move into 2022.
Another large part of health and wellness moving into the future will also be sustainability. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “sustainability is based on a simple principle: everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Furthermore, to pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”
When it comes to how sustainability plays a role in the sports world, think of the bigger picture.
Green Sports Alliance (GSA) is playing a large role in the former. GSA is founded on “leveraging the cultural and marketable influence of sports to promote a healthier lifestyle where people gather to play.” According to the GSA website, “the alliance is focused on seven key program initiatives including energy, food, procurement, transportation, venues, waste, and water.” The GSA also largely promotes buying from recycled material facilities, having a food standard set in place to reduce waste, and reducing fossil fuel emissions by carpooling when possible, utilizing public transportation such as sidewalks and bicycle racks when available, and uses sports teams nationwide to promote a greener way of living.
The GSA has made several appearances at professional, amateur, and youth games around the nation and is not stopping soon.