The Amish people have remarkably good health and longevity and therefore make good subjects for health studies. For example, the rate of obesity in the Amish community is 4% versus 68% in the general population. Yet the Amish eat basically whatever they want—meat, potatoes, full-fat dairy products, cakes and pies—about 4,000 calories a day for the average person.
There are similar disparities in the rates of other serious health problems like heart disease and cancer, which indicate that the Amish lifestyle may provide some health lessons for the rest of us.
Researchers believe doing things “the old fashioned way” has a lot to do with their excellent health. Their food is raised or grown naturally and minimally processed and without “modern conveniences” like electricity, cars and tractors, Amish people are almost 10 times more physically active than the average non-Amish American.
Most Americans only walk a few thousand steps toward the recommended 10,000 steps a day, but Amish men take an average of 18,000 steps and women take 14,000 steps. And that’s just walking! Imagine farming and maintaining a household with only human or animal power to plow fields, wash clothes, chop wood, and on and on.
When you compare the traditional Amish lifestyle to the rest of the modern world you begin see that technology has eliminated the need for most physical movement, leaving many of us sedentary. As we discussed in another blog post, our desk jobs are killing us.
While we are not suggesting that you give up all modern conveniences, you may want to consider using low-tech, manual modes of travel, household chores and hobbies in your daily routine. Low-tech workouts using your own body weight for resistance, free weights, jump ropes, or resistance bands are also low cost, old school ways to burn calories without joining a gym or using motor powered exercise equipment. Just to give you an idea of the calorie-burning potential of a simpler lifestyle, take a look at these numbers: (approximate calories burned per hour based on a 185 pound person)
- Bicycling, 16-19 mph – 533
- Jumping Rope, moderate pace – 444
- Jumping Jacks – 377
- Working with heavy, non-power tools – 355
- Masonry -- 311
- Weaving cloth -- 311
- Shoveling snow or chopping wood by hand – 266
- Digging, spading dirt or carrying/stacking wood – 222
- Walking or Horseback Riding -- 178
Another benefit of doing things the old fashioned way is that they also tend to be more environmentally friendly. They typically don’t require gas or electricity, just a little elbow grease.
Food Research and Action Center
Harvard Medical School