Changing World, Changing Bodies [The Compass]

Episodes

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01Feet2019051520190519 (WS)

For nearly two million years we evolved in close sync with our environment but 250 years ago the industrial revolution happened and changed everything. The innovation and technology it brought had many benefits but there was a physical cost as progress also designed out movement from our lives.

From spending hours on our feet outdoors, our jobs have moved indoors and largely involve sitting down for most of the day in offices, factories or driver cabs. It has resulted in feet that are getting flatter, backs that are weaker and eyes that cannot see very much without help.

Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid hears from evolutionary biologists, academics, anatomists and public health professionals in Singapore, Kenya, Australia, the UK and the United States; about the impact of modern life on our physical self and what we can do to return our bodies to the state that nature intended.

The good news is there is no need to spend hours on treadmills or pumping iron, in fact we would injure ourselves a lot less if we were a bit more cautious when exercising. Our bodies are marvellously adaptable and reintroducing small movements into our daily lives in most cases will do the trick!

(Photo: Womens' feets splashing in a pool. Credit: Getty Images)

What modern living is doing to our feet and why our trainers may not be the best for them

The Compass - exploring our world.

Academic and author Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid looks at what the modern world is doing to our bodies and how they are changing in different ways, in different parts of the world.

For nearly two million years we evolved in close synch with our environment but 250 years ago the industrial revolution happened and changed everything. The innovation and technology it brought had many benefits but there was a physical cost as progress also designed out movement from our lives.

From spending hours on our feet outdoors, our jobs have moved indoors and largely involve sitting down for most of the day in offices, factories or driver cabs. It has resulted in feet that are getting flatter, backs that are weaker and eyes that can't see very much without help.

Dr Cregan-Reid hears from evolutionary biologists, academics, anatomists and public health professionals in Singapore, Kenya, Australia, the UK and the United States; about the impact of modern life on our physical self and what we can do to return our bodies to the state that nature intended.

The good news is there is no need to spend hours on treadmills or pumping iron, in fact we would injure ourselves a lot less if we were a bit more cautious when exercising. Our bodies are marvellously adaptable and re-introducing small movements into our daily lives in most cases will do the trick!

Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid looks at what the modern world is doing to our bodies.

02Backs2019052220190526 (WS)

Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid investigates what the last 250 years has done to our backs. What is it about modern life that has promoted back pain, especially lower back pain, from a rarity to the number one cause of pain and disability in the world?

In the remote Kenyan Village of Pemja, Dr Cregan-Reid meets people with such excellent backs that they are the subject of international study. He hears from pain-wracked workers in Nairobi whose backs today are a pale version of those of their grandparents' and at the London Design museum he comes face-to-face with the artefact that has done most to weaken our backs - the chair.

Chairs with backs are now so ubiquitous it is reckoned there are around 10 for each of us but as recently as 1800 they were a rarity. Not that we have much choice but to sit down today. At the start of the 19th Century fractions of one per cent of people sat down for a living but today three quarters work in offices or drive for a living. We put our spines into positions they were not designed to sustain for hours on end.

He discusses with Australian academics their research which claims that half of back pain is in the mind and why simple movement is probably more effective than surgery, manipulation and powerful painkillers in getting to the bottom of back pain.

(Photo: A woman rubs her lower back. Credit: Getty Images)

How modern life has promoted back pain and why it is the number one cause of disability

The Compass - exploring our world.

02How Modern Life Is Changing Our Backs20190522
03How Modern Living Is Changing Our Faces2019052920190602 (WS)

Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid looks at how modern living is changing our faces. With the help of professor Saw Seang Mei in Singapore and the UK's top ophthalmologist, professor Chris Hammond, he tells the story of how baffled scientists sought to understand the rocketing rates of myopia in the Far East, where more than 80% of teenagers are short-sighted. Dr Cregan-Reid learns about the various theories put forward before Australian researchers cracked the mystery in 2004. Spoiler alert: It is not to do with screens.

Evolutionary biologist Professor Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel, from New York State University, tells Dr Cregan-Reid about how our jaws have been reacting to changes in our diet. They are getting shorter and less dense, but our teeth are erupting as if it is still 50,000 years BC. At London's Natural History Museum, Professor Fred Spoor takes us through the impact the modern world is having on our teeth and the shape of our mouths.

Back in Singapore, the country's leading plastic surgeon, who spends most of his day reshaping people's jaws, tells Dr Cregan-Reid he thinks our faces are getting shorter but wider because of what we eat and the impact of stress on facial muscles.

In the third and final part of Changing World, Changing Bodies, we learn why the 'you' that you see in the mirror most days may not be the 'you' that your DNA had planned.

(Photo: Multi ethnic montage of teenage male portrait. Credit: Getty Images)

How our faces are evolving from jaws that are shorter to our teeth and eyes

The Compass - exploring our world.

Academic and author Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid looks at what the modern world is doing to our bodies and how they are changing in different ways, in different parts of the world.

For nearly two million years we evolved in close synch with our environment but 250 years ago the industrial revolution happened and changed everything. The innovation and technology it brought had many benefits but there was a physical cost as progress also designed out movement from our lives.

From spending hours on our feet outdoors, our jobs have moved indoors and largely involve sitting down for most of the day in offices, factories or driver cabs. It has resulted in feet that are getting flatter, backs that are weaker and eyes that can't see very much without help.

Dr Cregan-Reid hears from evolutionary biologists, academics, anatomists and public health professionals in Singapore, Kenya, Australia, the UK and the United States; about the impact of modern life on our physical self and what we can do to return our bodies to the state that nature intended.

The good news is there is no need to spend hours on treadmills or pumping iron, in fact we would injure ourselves a lot less if we were a bit more cautious when exercising. Our bodies are marvellously adaptable and re-introducing small movements into our daily lives in most cases will do the trick!

Dr Vybarr Cregan-Reid looks at what the modern world is doing to our bodies.