More Health and Strength Nonsense From the Mainstream Media

The mainstream media lets us down every single day. Monday, for example, we learned from NPR that a Palo Alto acupuncturist has traveled to the third world and determined from her careful observations that indigenous peoples do not have back pain, and that Americans do. The reason for this, according to her meticulous examination of the data, is that modern back-pain-afflicted Americans have “S”-shaped spines, while indigenous people have “J”-shaped spines.


The proof of this assertion is the confident presentation of the drawing of a spine from “a modern anatomy book” compared with another drawing of a spine from a less-modern anatomy book, along with photographs of some Greek statues and a few indigenous people with very nice posture. This is, of course, absolutely convincing evidence of the fact that modern American spinal shape is the cause of back pain, even in the luxurious and probably undeserved absence of liver flukes and bilharzia.

Her conclusion is that modern Americans have “somehow forgotten the right way to stand.” Their bigger bellies apparently pull their upper backs forward into a more kyphotic curve. Despite the fact that the human spine appears in various curvatures in lots of different healthy people in lots of different places around the world, NPR never misses the opportunity to extol the virtues of the absence of technology.

Her answer to this spinal-shape problem? Strength. The rough lifestyle of the third-world involves a more rigorous physical existence than that typical of modern America. Carrying water in a bucket on the head, collecting firewood, sitting on the ground weaving for hours, and gathering water chestnuts for seven to nine hours a day while elderly — this is being replaced by sitting at a desk in an air-conditioned office with clean water in the fountain.

She’s right, of course. About the strength.


Take the example of a piece published at CBS Sports this past Saturday, where we learn that basketball is not really a strength-dependent sport. The story is about the “insane strength” in the possession of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, 27 years old and 190 pounds at 6’3”. Curry is apparently capable of a 400-pound trap-bar deadlift.

Despite the fact that Texas high schools are home to dozens of teenage girls capable of this feat, the team’s director of athletic performance, Keke Lyles, slobbers with excitement:

He’s probably 10 times stronger than what people think.

Apparently people think this particular professional athlete is only capable of deadlifting 40 pounds. I have a 92-year-old lady in my gym that deadlifts more than this.


He continues:

We knew he was strong, but when he started pushing that kind of weight, I was like, “This guy is just a freak.

A young professional athlete who “deadlifts” a little over twice his bodyweight is a freak to a professional director of athletic performance.

Modern Western culture is remarkably far-removed from the realities of human physical existence. It’s not terribly surprising that a more primitive culture is more physical than a modern technological culture, and that the stronger inhabitants thereof enjoy the benefits of physical strength — at least until they die of the effects of poor public health.

Our own culture in the last century was remarkably tough, physically. Our citizens won two World Wars with their feet, their backs, their hands, and their hearts. If their backs hurt, they kept it from their acupuncturists.


Even more surprising is the reverence with which the physical aspects of our bread-and-circuses performers are accorded, even if they are unremarkable to people still connected to their own physical existence. It is somewhat refreshing to know that many people all over the country are laughing at this CBS Sports story and the player’s breathless coach, if not the player himself.

Perhaps someday we’ll have developed to the point where a 400-pound deadlift is a hiring criterion for any healthy young male in every line of work. Back pain will be largely absent, and professional athletes will be evaluated by a better-prepared public. The mainstream media will then be forced to invent other ways to waste their electricity.


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