As a Personal Fitness Trainer quickly approaching two decades now, I’ve had what I would consider a blessed existence. Sure I have my challenges just like the next person, but I feel that I’ve been given an opportunity to earn a living doing something I truly love and enjoy. As part of that, I’ve been granted a window into the lives of those I serve. I get to know them well from their fears and joys to what motivates them to their daily habits and routines. It’s a privilege that I don’t take lightly. The information that I learn helps me to subtly influence my clients in a positive direction. After years of these experiences, one begins to notice common themes and patterns that many of us share. I can honestly say that one of the biggest challenges that most of us face is how we choose to use one simple precious resource. The time we have.
We all have the same amount. 60 seconds per minute. 60 minutes per hour. 24 hours per day. 365 days per year. The highest achievers in our world have the same amount as you and I. Yet, with the countless ways in which we could spend our time, there is no possible way that we can fit in everything there is to do. So, logically, we must pick and choose how we spend this limited resource. It’s an ongoing, never-ending compromise. Choose to spend your time in one way and you must give up spending it in another. The sum of these decisions stacked up over the course of our lives molds and shapes who we are, who we become, the condition of our minds and bodies, and the quality of what we then put out into the world around us. So, I ask, how do you spend your time? Remember, it’s a constant compromise and I challenge you to carefully decide what you are willing to give up in exchange for something else. When the time you have is used up, you can’t get it back.
When you step back from an individual perspective and look at it from a societal standpoint, it isn’t hard to see how we get to where we are. Likewise, as a society, the sum of how we decide to spend our time molds and shapes who we are as a people. For example, the average child today watches 1,680 minutes of television per week. Meanwhile, parents spend an average of 3.5 minutes of meaningful conversation with their children per week. The average American youth spends close to 1,500 hours watching television per year compared to 900 hours spent in school. Realize that is over two solid months of television time per year. As a result, the average child will have seen about 8,000 murders on television before finishing elementary school and 200,000 violent acts by the age of 18. The number 1 thing advertised on television is fast food restaurants and other food products. The average number of television commercials viewed per year by a child is 20,000. In my opinion, a convincing message repeated often enough can influence anyone. Likewise, the average person views over 2 million commercials by the age of 65. When this is combined with the fact that television directly creates inactivity as well as information overload, there is no doubt that we are, as a society, increasingly unhealthy and overstressed. Likewise, because so many people, predominantly young men, spend so much time playing video games there are actual addictive disorders being diagnosed much like an addiction to drugs or alcohol. The same pattern is developing for excessive internet usage and video games. A couple years ago, a young British man died from blood clots in his legs because he spent over 12 hours at a time playing his Xbox. There have been numerous others since. Granted, not everyone spends that much time playing video games but it is still a constant compromise no matter the amount. What is important enough to you to allocate time for instead of something else?
With all of that said, maybe the blame can’t be placed solely on “time wasters”. Maybe we should also consider “time fillers.” What I mean is we can also pack too much of a good thing into our days, effectively turning them into something not as good. I consider sports and athletic endeavors to be healthy on many levels as well as other extracurricular activities. However, I think we must acknowledge that, as a society, we fill our days with much more activities and stimulation than we ever have before throughout human history. Quite often, I hear people describe how they run themselves ragged. Parents spend many hours simply driving their kids from one activity to the next at the cost of dinners together as a family or even simple “down time.” We want it all. We want to do it all. We say no to nothing. However, once again, those choices all come at the expense of something else. It’s a constant compromise. Gone are the days of neighborhoods filled with the voices of children riding bikes, climbing trees and playing ball in the yard into the twilight hours. Childhood is more structured and scheduled than ever. Recent studies have shown that American children, on average, spend about 30 minutes of “unstructured” play time outdoors each week. That is an average of just over 4 minutes per day.
From a health perspective, time spent playing outdoors has countless benefits. A few of those include:
- Increased fitness levels
- Less sickness
- Better distance vision and a lower chance of nearsightedness
- Reduced ADHD symptoms
- Higher scores in math, reading, writing, and listening tests
- Less anxiety and depression
It has been shown that stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces. In fact, nowadays there is actually something called “Nature deficiency disorder” that is used to describe the problems we create when we do not get enough of the natural world. Even more interesting to me is that there is recently discovered bacteria found in soil called Mycobacterium Vaccae that has been found to affect the same neurons as Prozac. It’s a natural mood lifter conveniently placed right out there in the dirt outside of the walls of your home or office. Consider that in 2010, pharmaceutical companies sold $307 billion worth of drugs to Americans (twice as much as just 10 years prior… and appears to have jumped to $360 billion in 2018); maybe we should simply go outside and save a few dollars?
In summary, your time is precious. You only have so much of it. You can choose to spend it in countless ways. Either way, in the end, whatever you decide to fill your time with will take the place of something else. It’s easy to fall into the trap of gradually shaving a little something off the fringes of what’s good and healthy for us or take a little something away from those things we truly value in exchange for “time wasters” or “time fillers” that hold little true value. It’s always your choice. Your time is always under your control and direction. What will you decide to do with it? What example will you set for your loved ones?
- Jason Minich, BS is a native of the Fort Wayne area. A local fitness speaker and educator, he is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer. He is the owner of Catalyst Fitness and was voted a Top 10 Personal Trainer of the Year for North America in 2009. For more information on Catalyst Fitness, visit www.catalyst-fitness.com.