KineSophy

KineSophy

Sunday, December 1, 2013

KineSophy Year One in Review

          With 2013 and the first year of my KineSophy project drawing to a close, I decided to use this month’s essay to summarize the ground I’ve covered in the past eleven months, in the hopes of giving these pieces some appearance of cohesion. Working under the general mission statement of connecting topics in health and fitness with aspects of philosophy and ethics, I initially sought to investigate the ways in which physical fitness plays some role in a philosophical description of a good life. The year began with exploration
and study, and concluded with a somewhat more concrete plan for the framework of an ethical theory. I made occasional sidetracks and digressions along the way as I discovered issues related to my overall topic which I felt deserved consideration. The result was eleven months of once loosely connected strands which I have attempted to weave into some recognizable pattern.
          I began the year with two articles designed to lay the groundwork for bridging the gap between fitness and philosophy. In January, I discussed Albert Camus’ well-known essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” in which Camus turns Sisyphus’ eternal punishment into an allegory for a meaningful and fulfilled life. For Sisyphus, each new start driving the rock up the mountain is an opportunity; every successful summit is a victory. I argued that the power of the myth lies in the fact that Sisyphus’ torment is physical, and suggested that his repeated physical accomplishments give him the tenacity to face any obstacle. The courage, perseverance and even joy Sisyphus demonstrates in his task are virtues to which we all should aspire. I addressed a similar theme in February’s article, in which I suggested every human should take advantage of learning to deadlift, both for the benefits of functional strength and to tap in to the body’s neuroendocrine response, a vital component of building strength, improving intelligence and enjoying sex. In this way, we can view the deadlift as a microcosm of the carpe diem attitude that makes life worth living. This article also served as a stepping stone for my precepts of human movement later in the year.
            Having read so many fascinating articles about how governments and society deal with obesity, I opted to tackle these issues in my March essay. I examined the policies of airlines with regards to obese passengers, the ethics of performing an excessively painful lethal injection on an obese convict and the role of government in fighting this health epidemic. In the end, I threw the onus back on the individual. Every person is dealt a different hand, but we all have a responsibility to ourselves to make the most of our circumstances. While this conclusion applies directly to the questions posed by the issues in this essay, it also points to a notion of responsibility that lies at the heart of all ethical obligation.
            April began my formal foray into ethical theory, with three months of essays summarizing the three main mindsets for approaching ethics. In each case, I tried to apply the theories of philosophical giants to questions of health and fitness. Aristotle’s virtue-centric doctrine of the mean suggests fitness requires a balance between the poles of sloth and self-deprivation. Kant’s action-based deontology forbids self-harm from gluttony and laziness and requires the individual to develop all his talents, including the physical ones. The outcome-focused consequentialism of Mill and Singer echoes this call for self-improvement, albeit less forcefully than Kant. Most importantly, all three strains of ethical theory give us fodder for later discussions on the ethics of human movement.
After a brief digression in July dedicated to the annual inductions of the Baseball Hall of Fame, which coincided this year with the demise of the United States Defense of Marriage Act and led to a discussion of the rights of private and public institutions, essays in August through November began the heart of the KineSophy project. In a pair of two-part pieces, I argued first for the existence of three precepts of human movement, then attempted to scale these precepts according to the age of the individual. Human movement falls in the realm of ethics, conceived as what an individual should do, since nearly all ethical activity requires physical action. The three precepts of human movement answer the three primary questions defining any movement, namely 1) how much force must the agent apply?, 2) over what distance must the agent apply that force? and 3) how quickly must the agent apply the force or cover the distance? In answer to these questions, I proposed the following three ethical precepts for human movement:
1.      A human being should be able to lift an object equal in weight to his or her own body off the ground. (A human being should be able to deadlift his or her own body weight.)
2.      A human being should be able enjoy a meal or use the toilet while squatting instead of sitting. (A human being should be able to maintain a comfortable resting squat position for at least ten minutes.)
3.      A human being should (in theory) be capable of persistence hunting on foot for over 20 miles at 4 miles per hour in temperatures around 100° F. A human being should (in actuality) be capable of traveling on foot to the nearest hospital in 30-40 minutes in optimal weather. (A human being should (in theory) be able to complete a marathon in optimal weather in six hours. A human being should (in actuality) be able to travel 5000 meters (3.11 miles) in 36 minutes.)
I also used the notion of scalability to draw a distinction between those ethical precepts which admit of scalability and those that do not. The former, including precepts regarding human movement, intelligence, and social virtues such as kindness and honesty appear subordinate to the latter, which I described as respect for the inviolability of human life. This distinction serves as a starting point for further development in 2014.
In particular, I envision a sort of pyramid of ethical precepts, in which the scalable secondary virtues complement one another and combine to support the primary virtue. At the same time, one can use the primary precept of human inviolability to derive the secondary virtues. In the coming year, I will begin the project of fleshing out this hierarchy in greater detail. I plan to examine the relationship between physical fitness and the other secondary virtues, noting how the ties between the virtues are strengthened, how they are broken and the reasons for these breaks. I then hope to give evidence of how the secondary virtues, and physical fitness in particular, work to support the primary virtue. If all goes well, I will attempt to work from the top down to derive some secondary virtues, especially those relating to fitness, from the primary ethical precept of human inviolability. And as was the case in 2013, I plan to intersperse this discussion with essays and comments on other relevant topics which demonstrate the interconnectedness of fitness and ethics. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ritz Crackers: The Cornerstone of Any Balanced Canadian Meal

As the latest entry in the long list of silly government policies to enforce someone's idea of healthy eating, the Manitoba (Canada) Government's Early Learning and Child Care lunch regulations require parents to send their children to school with a "balanced" lunch. Children whose lunches do not comply with these regulations have their lunches supplemented with the missing food group while their parents receive a fine. In one such incident, a child's lunch was found to lack grains, and the lunch was supplemented with Ritz crackers. Read the original blog post reporting the incident here and check out the nutrition facts for Ritz crackers on their website.

Ignoring that Ritz crackers are not exactly the healthiest option in the grain food group, what happens if the child is gluten intolerant? Does the Child Care center have gluten-free grain options? Can gluten tolerant children request gluten-free options if the grain requirement is imposed upon them?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lavkarbo H√łyfett! (Low-carb high-fat!)

The Swedish government recently became the first nation to recommend a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet to its citizens (http://blog.wellnessfx.com/2013/11/07/sweden-goes-low-carb-high-fat/). The United States government maintains its recommendation of what is essentially a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet (http://www.choosemyplate.govdietary-guidelines.html). How is it possible for the governments of two intelligent, developed nations to give two contrary dietary recommendations to its citizens? Either one side has blatantly ignored research contrary to its position, or both sides have irresponsibly misrepresented data which offers no definite conclusion. The resulting divergence in dietary guidelines goes beyond one government claiming that smoking does not produce adverse health effects; it is akin to a government claiming that smoking is actually beneficial.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Toward a Universal Ethic of Human Movement (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this essay, I argued that, like many other ethical precepts, the ethical precepts of human movement are scalable. They vary with respect to age, disability and circumstance. Since age is a universal phenomenon of human existence, I endeavored to scale my first two precepts of human movement for ages ranging from 14 to over 90. In this section, I apply a similar method to the speed with which a human should be capable of moving.
Table 6 displays 5000 meter world record times by sex and age group, and the ratio of those times to the 20-34 year old age group.

Table 6: 5000 m World Record Times1,2
Men
Women
Age
Time
Ratio to 20-34 Age Group
Age
Time
Ratio to 20-34 Age Group
16-19
12:47.53
1.01
16-19
14:30.88
1.02
20-34
12:37.35
1.00
20-34
14:11.15
1.00
35-39
12:53.6
1.02
35-39
14:33.8
1.03
40-44
13:43.0
1.09
40-44
15:20.6
1.08
45-49
14:23.6
1.14
45-49
15:55.7
1.12
50-54
14:53.2
1.18
50-54
16:51.2
1.19
55-59
15:29.7
1.23
55-59
17:52.8
1.26
60-64
16:12.6
1.28
60-64
18:51.1
1.33
65-69
16:38.8
1.32
65-69
20:13.2
1.43
70-74
18:15.5
1.45
70-74
22:06.0
1.56
75-79
19:07.0
1.51
75-79
24:33.0
1.73
80-84
20:58.1
1.66
80-84
26:56.1
1.90
85-89
24:51.7
1.97
85-89
32:51.1
2.32
90-94
31:25.5
2.49
95+
50:10.6
3.98

Like strength, speed and endurance capacities peak in early adulthood (ages 20-34) and decline with age. Yet as running distances increase, the drop-off in endurance becomes less steep with age. Based on the average results by age of the 2004 New York City Marathon, times improve from 19 to 27 years old and decline thereafter. However, this decline is not symmetrical. One might expect 19 year olds to run about as
Fauja Singh, the world's oldest marathoner at 100 years old (right), with his trainer5
fast as 35 year olds (eight years older than the peak age of 27). Instead, runners in their forties, fifties and early sixties were faster on average than their 19 year old competitors. It was not until the age of 64 that average times returned to those achieved by 19 year olds. Humans are capable of covering long distances on foot in a relatively short amount of time, and they maintain this ability even as they age.
However, I consider marathon running only as a theoretical precept for human movement, whereas covering five kilometers (3.11 miles) on foot serves a more practical purpose in modern, non-persistence hunting societies. Again, since these ethical precepts point to minimum capacities for human movement, I take the larger (slower) of the two ratios for each sex in a particular age group from Table 6 and multiply by 36:00, the time in which a healthy adult  should be able to cover five kilometers on foot. The results displayed in Table 7 reflect the amount of time a human being should take to cover 5000 meters on foot over a range of ages.

Table 7: 5000 m Standards Relative to Age
Age
Ratio to 20-34 Age Group
Time (h:mm:ss)
16-19
1.02
36:50
20-34
1.00
36:00
35-39
1.03
36:57
40-44
1.09
39:07
45-49
1.14
41:03
50-54
1.19
42:46
55-59
1.26
45:22
60-64
1.33
47:50
65-69
1.43
51:19
70-74
1.56
56:05
75-79
1.73
1:02:18
80-84
1.90
1:08:21
85-89
2.32
1:23:22
90-94
2.49
1:29:38
95+
3.98
2:23:06

            Having thus scaled my three ethical precepts of human movement for age, let us now apply the notion of scalability to other ethical considerations. Human beings should be capable of certain standards of physical movement. They should also be intelligent, courageous, generous, merciful, honest, conscientious and temperate to the degree defined by a well-structured ethical theory. Furthermore, they should not murder, torture, rape or rob other human beings. Some ethicists have proposed a division or hierarchy of moral principles. Aristotle, for example, split human goods into three types: external goods (such as prosperity), goods of the soul (such as happiness) and goods of the body (such as health), and deemed goods of the soul the most complete form of good.4 The notion of scalability suggests another method of distinction.
            Looking at the ethical precepts listed above, which ones admit of scalability? Human mental capabilities improve through adulthood and decline with old age. Children are not expected to demonstrate the courage of a trained soldier. The rich fall under a higher standard of generosity than do the poor. A starving man may steal a loaf of bread. It’s okay to lie to the Nazis about hiding a Jewish family in your attic. Yet actions like murder, torture and rape do not permit such easy scaling. A child who kills or tortures an animal acts wrongly even if she does not understand notions of right and wrong. Though the consequences differ from the penalties levied against an adult criminal, such actions will no doubt prompt some intervention on the part of her caretakers. Whether she knows it or not, torture is an act she must not commit.
            The application of scalability thus leads to an ethical hierarchy. A respect for the inviolability of individual human beings ranks above all other ethical precepts under this view because it does not admit of scalability. One must not rape, murder or torture another human being no matter one’s own personal circumstances. Other precepts, whether physical, intellectual or social, are secondary. They are scalable according to age, capability, circumstance and psychological state. Yet scalability does not further categorize these secondary virtues. In future essays, I will explore the relationship between secondary virtues as well as their impact on the primary concern of human inviolability. For now, I simply make the following two propositions: 1) secondary virtues are complementary to one another in that strengthening one provides the capacity for strengthening others, and 2) the secondary virtues as a whole provide a foundation to support the primary precept of ethics.

_____________________
1.       Values derived from “Records.” USA Track and Field. 2013. Online. 14 Oct. 2013. http://www.usatf.org/statistics/records/.
2.       Values derived from “Records.” World Masters Athletics. 2013. Online. 14 Oct. 2013. http://world-masters-athletics.org/records/.
3.       McDougall, Christopher. Born to Run. New York: Vintage Books, 2011. p. 239-240.
4.       Aristotle. “The Nature of Virtue.” Ethical Theory, Ed. Russ Shafer-Landau, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007, p. 671.
5.       “singh-training-600.” Reuters. Image in Woolley, Drew. "World's Oldest Marathon Runner Completes Final Race at 101." Sports Illustrate Extra Mustard. 25 Feb. 2013. Online. 23 Oct. 2013. http://extramustard.si.com/2013/02/25/fauja-singh-worlds-oldest-marathon-runner/

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Athlete Endorsements in Food Marketing

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/10/02/peds.2013-0093.full.pdf+html

From the article:
"Professional athletes are in a unique position to use their highly visible status to promote healthy messages to youth, and their role as athletes may lead the public to perceive them as credible sources of knowledge on a healthy lifestyle." (p. 2)

"One study also revealed that parents perceive food products as healthier when they are endorsed by a professional athlete and are more likely to purchase those products." (p. 2)

"The promotion of energy-dense, nutrient-poor products by some of the world's most physically fit and well-known athletes is an ironic combination that sends mixed messages about diet and health." (p. 5)

(p. 5)














Generally speaking, is a person under an ethical obligation to only endorse those products he/she actually uses and/or deems safe, healthy or beneficial? More specifically, as perceived symbols of health and fitness, are athletes under an ethical obligation to only endorse products with demonstrable health or nutritional value?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Toward a Universal Ethic of Human Movement (Part 1)

             As I stated previously, ethics consists of the set of precepts concerned with what an individual human being should do. Yet ethical theory is scalable; different ethical standards exist for different individuals based on variations in age, circumstance, and mental and physical capabilities. One may consider a pauper generous even though he gives what would be a pittance for a rich man, or a trained soldier a coward if he flees from a battle that would justifiably frighten a child. Even killing another human warrants different consequences for young children, mentally challenged persons and fully cognizant individuals. Though we can say a child should not kill another human being, we struggle to convey the force of that sentiment to someone too young to grasp the difference between right and wrong.
Recall Aristotle’s definition of virtue: “having [the right] feelings at the right times, about the right things, toward the right people, for the right end, and in the right way.”1 Virtue is subject to a variety of conditions. It is “not the same for all,”2 but relative to each individual and her particular situation. Virtue requires correct reasoning about which situations call for a particular virtue and what action is required, and then acting with the appropriate virtue in those situations. Yet different situations call for different virtues from different individuals under different circumstances. What one individual should do in a given situation may contrast with what another individual should do.
In my essay “The Ethics of Human Movement,” I stated “a healthy adult between the ages of 20 and 35 is certainly capable of lifting his or own body weight,” a condition I applied loosely to the subsequent precepts of human movement:
1.      A human being should be able to lift his or her own body weight off the ground.
2.      A human being should be able to maintain a comfortable resting squat position for at least ten minutes.
3.      A human being should be able to travel 5000 meters (3.11 miles) in 36 minutes.
But what about humans with injuries, physical disabilities, or those who fall outside the age range of 20 to 35? I do not expect a child or a grandmother to be as strong or fast as an adult in his physical prime. These precepts must be scaled to accommodate the variety of uncontrollable circumstances which affect individual human beings. I begin here with age, since this phenomenon touches all humans and is responsible for many of the peaks and declines in individuals’ mental and physical capabilities. One way to scale these precepts of movement would be to use actual results by age from athletic competitions. This standard allows us to set criteria based on exemplars of physical virtue. It considers what is actually possible, in contrast to the abilities of the average person. Since we are examining ethics, or the standards which human beings should achieve, it makes sense to look at optimal achievement rather than mediocre, unrealized capacities. Virtue is an exemplar, not the least common denominator. But lest the following start to look too much like the benchmarks for a junior high fitness test, I will say that things really get interesting when we turn the question of scalability back onto social ethics to examine the values humans hold with respect to one another.
To begin, consider Tables 1 and 2, which express the U.S.A. Powerlifting deadlift records for men and woman in various age groups as a ratio of weight lifted to the lifter’s bodyweight.

Table 1: U.S.A. Powerlifting Men's Deadlift Records3
Table 2: U.S.A. Powerlifting Women's
Deadlift Records4
Age
Mean Deadlift: Bodyweight
Ratio to 24-39 Age Group
Age
Mean Deadlift: Bodyweight
Ratio to 24-39 Age Group
14-15
2.90
0.708
14-15
2.60
0.788
16-17
3.27
0.798
16-17
2.91
0.880
18-19
3.60
0.880
18-19
2.96
0.896
20-23
3.90
0.952
20-23
2.97
0.898
24-39
4.10
1.000
24-39
3.30
1.000
40-44
3.70
0.905
40-44
2.74
0.830
45-49
3.57
0.873
45-49
2.77
0.839
50-54
3.48
0.849
50-54
2.62
0.792
55-59
3.02
0.737
55-59
2.21
0.669
60-64
2.85
0.696
60-64
1.33
0.402
65-69
2.72
0.664
65-69
1.64
0.497
70-74
2.30
0.561
70-74
1.27
0.386
75-79
2.20
0.538
75-79
1.32
0.400
80-84
1.66
0.404
80-84
-
-
85-89
0.61
0.148
85-89
-
-
90-94
-
-
90-94
1.29
0.39

In both men and women, strength peaks between ages 24 and 39, with the values in the third column of each table indicating the ratio of pound for pound strength for each age group in comparison to the 24-39 age group. Thus, if top powerlifters lift 100% of their capacity between the ages of 24 and 39, they lift about 90-95% of their maximum capacity at 20-23 years old and 83-90% maximum capacity at 40-44.
This data provides a guideline from which to extrapolate estimates for how much weight any adult human should be capable of lifting at a certain age. Since our ethical precepts for human movement offer minimum capacities, we take the smaller of the two gender values for each age group to produce Table 3, which reflects the amount of weight a human being should be able to lift off the ground relative to his or her own bodyweight over a range of ages.

Table 3: Standards for Deadlifting Relative to Age
Age
% Bodyweight
14-15
71%
16-17
80%
18-19
88%
20-23
90%
24-39
100%
40-44
83%
45-49
84%
50-54
79%
55-59
67%
60+
40%*
*-Strength capacities after age 60 seem to level off around 40%, with the exception of a few outliers. The age ranges from 60 to 94 in Tables 1 and 2 are therefore compressed to 60+ in Table 3.
           
Moving to the second ethical precept for human movement, a full squat requires suitable range of motion in knee flexion (bending the knee) hip flexion (bringing the knee toward the chest), hip abduction (moving the leg away from the body’s center line), hip external rotation (turning the leg outward from the hip) and ankle dorsiflexion (bringing the top of the foot toward the shin). Table 4 lists average hip and knee range of motion by age, gender and race among 1,683 subjects. All values are measured in degrees and reflect active range of motion, i.e. range of motion created by the individual’s own muscular activity without any application of external force.

Table 4: Hip and Knee Range of Motion by Gender, Race and Age5
Gender
Race
Age
Knee Flexion
Hip Flexion
Hip Abduction
Hip External Rotation
Male
White
25-39
134
123
46
33
40-59
133
121
43
31
60-74
131
118
39
27
Female
White
25-39
132
123
44
36
40-59
132
121
41
34
60-74
131
119
40
32
Male
Black
25-39
128
115
41
32
40-59
130
118
45
29
60-74
125
118
38
27
Female
Black
25-39
132
116
36
32
40-59
128
110
41
33
60-74
126
106
37
28

This data supports other research indicating flexibility generally decreases from early childhood until puberty, increases throughout adolescence, levels off in adulthood and eventually decreases with age.6 Yet adults who remain active can minimize flexibility loss, and as Table 4 indicates, even when activity level is not controlled, flexibility losses with age are relatively minimal.
Exemplars of human movement7
            Though a full squat requires more range of motion than the values in Table 4, squatting puts joints through a passive range of motion. The weight of the body in a squat acts as an external force on the joints and produces greater range of motion than the active range an individual can achieve with her own muscular strength. If a healthy adult should be capable of maintaining a full squat for ten minutes or more, this range of motion should not decrease significantly with age, especially if the individual remains active. In countries where individuals regularly squat, people maintain this ability even into old age, as evidenced by the image on the left. Given the aforementioned declines in strength with age, muscular endurance might seem the greatest limiting factor in maintaining a full squat for an extended period of time. However, a full squat is a resting position; further descent into the squat is limited mainly by joint range of motion and contact between body parts, and less so by muscular strength (as in an isometric wall sit). Assuming the individual can achieve the requisite position, significant strength should not be required to maintain a full squat. Still, in order to account for joint wear, slight decreases in flexibility that may limit the attainment of the comfortable position and other age-related complications, I propose the following standards for range of motion.

Table 5: Standards for Resting Squat Time Relative to Age
Age
Minimum Time in Squat
13-19
11:00
20-24
10:00
25-39
10:00
40-59
9:00
60-74
8:00

Admittedly, research in the capacity of individuals of different ages to achieve a full resting squat position is limited. The standards in Table 5 are based on estimates derived from limited data of isolated joint movements. Further data is required to set more appropriate guidelines for this movement standard.

_____________________
1.       Aristotle. “The Nature of Virtue.” Ethical Thoery, Ed. Russ Shafer-Landau, Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007, p. 678.
2.       Ibid, p. 677.
3.       Values derived from “Men’s American Records.” U.S.A. Powerlifting. 13 July 2013. Online. 22 Sep. 2013. http://www.goheavy.net/records/viewrecordsetgroup.aspx?recordsetgroupguid= 2cf819ab-1d0c-4a59-adef-b997869bcd8d.
4.       Values derived from “Men’s American Records.” U.S.A. Powerlifting. 27 July 2013. Online. 22 Sep. 2013. http://www.goheavy.net/records/viewrecordsetgroup.aspx?recordsetgroupguid= 83016a42-d021-475b-9bb5-b0e69a9da000.
5.       Roach, Kathryn E. and Miles, Toni P. “Normal Hip and Knee Active Range of Motion: The Relationship to Age.” Physical Therapy, 1991, p. 656-665. Online. 23 Sep. 2013. http://www.physther.net/content/71/9/656.full.pdf+html.
6.       Alter, Michael J. Sport Stretch. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1990. p. 20.
7.       “Asian squat.” Stretch to Win ® Institute. Image. 21 May 2011. Online. 30 Sep. 2013. http://www.stretchtowin.com/instituteblog/2011/05/fascial-stretch-therapy%E2%84%A2-and-the-almighty-squat/asian-squat/.