A recent question prompted some research on the generations serving in the military and how the health of a generation affects recruiting practices and eligible numbers of qualified applicants. For a few decades now, our health as a nation has been declining to a point where the main issue with recruitment of military members is no longer a high school education or criminal record, but the height and weight standards of the average recruiting age American. The trend started in the 1990's and has been on a continual downslide since then. In 1990, obesity rates were at 15 percent. In 2010, obesity rates were roughly 25 percent. Today, the obesity numbers are pushing 36 percent. These numbers do not consider the overweight numbers, which are at 69 percent, but there is always some debate on those numbers if overweight is determined by Body Mass Index (BMI). Regardless, you cannot argue with obesity numbers increasing steadily nearly 30 years.
The question this week was asked by a member of the Millennial generation:
Stew – it seems like the Millennials are getting a bad rap these days. What generation is the worst? I ask because every "old guy" who gives me a hard time for being my current age is out of shape and overweight. What gives?
That is a funny question with a nice dig as well! I have no issues with the Millennial Generation and here is why. Within the military, the Millennial Generation as well as the latter half of Gen X have only seen war. There were few peacetime deployments even for the youngest Gen X or the oldest Millennial. In fact, in my mind the military Gen Xers and Millennials maybe the next Greatest Generation if you can stereotype ONE PERCENT of your generation and call them the "Next Greatest." But to answer your question. The Millennials (aka Gen Y) are categorized as being born between the years of 1982 and 2004. Likely the group of people you are referring to is my generation – Generation X – born in between 1965-1981. The newest Generation are being dubbed as Centennials (aka Gen Z or iGen) born 2005 - present.
So - What Generation Is The Worst?
If you consider the people that are still serving in the military or are of military age, both Gen X and Millennials make up the bulk of the military with the Baby Boomer Generation at the highest ranks of officer and enlisted. To answer this question properly, I found retired Marine Corp Officer and Dr. Keith Kantor who has written and discussed this topic frequently. He agrees with you, and according to him and the research he references, Gen X needs the most help. I would say that answers your question to a degree, but the remainder of the post will focus on getting healthier for Generation X. Getting an older generation to stop making fun of the younger generation is not going to happen, so get used that as I am sure you will have some fun with the iGeneration following you. According to Dr. Kantor, "Generation X has been deemed as the unhealthiest generation. The stress level and mentality of this generation tends to be more intense than those before and after them. Focusing on making small lifestyle changes related to nutrition, fitness and stress reduction will have a positive impact on this generation. They work hard long hours and are tired when the day is done. This generation is on more medications, they are overweight/ obese and they "de-stress" with alcohol and other recreational drugs more than other generations.
Dr. Kantor continues with a list for the Gen Xers to adopt in order to increase vitality and longevity.
A Variety of Workout Types - A diverse exercise program that incorporates strength training, cardiovascular, core and flexibility is best. An intense workout day followed by a more restorative workout day like (walking, stretching, yoga and/or Pilates) can provide both physical and mental benefits to this tightly wound generation. Slowing down may be exactly what they need to improve their overall health on the inside and out. Consider this for starters. Lower Back Plan
Quality Sleep - It is best to wind down in the evenings and turn off work and stress. Going for a walk outside after dinner, taking a bath, reading, and turning the high wattage lights off can do wonders for improving sleep. Food with melatonin and magnesium both can also improve quality of sleep like pineapple, bananas, oranges to name a few.
Multi- Vitamin May Be Useful - Dr. Kantor suggests taking a high quality multi vitamin/ mineral, omega 3 fish oil, and a multi-probiotic. Other supplements may be recommended individually by your health care provider based on labs and symptoms such as vitamin D for deficiencies.
Drink Water But Also…Reducing acid and inflammation in the body can help those who are dealing with chronic disease like high blood pressure or Type 2 Diabetes or Pre Diabetes. Reducing hydrogen by drinking hydroxide alkaline water can help with acid reduction. This happens by the hydroxide ion (OH-) seeking out the H+ ion (which causes the acidity, which causes acidosis which causes inflammation), binding and forming water which eliminates the acid from the body. The best hydroxide alkaline water Dr. Kantor's research has found is AQUA OH-!
Things to Avoid. Limit eating out, restaurants are heavy in sodium and unhealthy fats. Avoid pre-packaged foods, most contain harmful chemicals like dyes, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils. Zero calorie artificially sweetened drinks are also on the avoid list, most contain aspartame, saccharin or sucralose which have all been linked to cancer. Also, reduce alcohol consumption, this generation tends to let loose and binge drink on the weekends or in the evening. Practice moderation and avoid developing bad habits.
Eat This - "Super Foods." Heart healthy fats from coconut oil, nuts and seeds have been shown to help prevent or manage symptoms of dementia. A ratio of 3:1 vegetables to fruit for a total of 9-11 servings of fruits and vegetables. Dark fruits are the lowest in sugar (i.e. berries) and fibrous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and kale are best.
And start small to build good habits and eliminate old (bad) habits. To make a lifestyle change that is needed in ALL generations, try to move more / eat less, move more / sit less in front of screen (TV, computer, phone), cut back on eating out, and aim to get 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Start off easy by just moving more. Perhaps get an activity monitor and start tracking steps and aim for at least 10,000 per day.
Thanks Dr. Kantor (USMC ret) of www.namedprogram.com for his assistance, opinion, and knowledge concerning the Generation X health status and ways to correct it.