"When we turn our back on physical activity, we turn away from more than just health. We close our eyes to the story we carry within us."
At long last, someone gets it. Finally, after all the dodging and weaving and primping and profiteering, a courageous writer has stepped up to tell the catastrophic story of the modern human body. Mary Collins, a former athlete who was busted up in a bicycle accident, used her rehab time to take a good hard look at our lost physicality.
Along her journey, she visits the land of North America's early hunter-gatherers, studies the origins of the bicycle and looks at assembly line work at a potato chip factory. (A particularly ironic story in which factory workers sacrifice their health so as to help other people ruin theirs.) Wisely, she focuses on Frederick Winslow Taylor and his philosophy of "Scientific Management." (Taylor redefined labor practices across America to become brutally efficient and in the process, increasingly body-hostile.)
Later, she visits the National Zoo in Washinton D.C. to compare movement patterns among a range of animals. She ponders the effects of urban design on movement and health, samples Tai Chi and delves into the mysteries of urban planning.
Collins sees clearly the widening gap between the super-fit and the barely functional: "How have we allowed ourselves to get to this point and why do we expend so much time and technology on the elite few and yet so little on solving the systemic problems that make it such a struggle for the masses?"
This is a refreshing piece of writing that is both both authoritative and personal. Collins digs into facts and data, but also exposes her feelings and opinions about health, personal responsibility and social dilemmas surrounding the body. She also reminds us of the tragic disconnection between our bodies and the natural world.
Through it all, she maintains a firm grip on the magnitude of our public health catastrophe and our steadfast refusal to take it seriously: "Our sedentary culture has the impact of a plague but we treat it like a cold."
This is a book that should be read by every PE teacher, school administrator, trainer, coach and physician.