Opinion: Why Humans HAVEN’T Peaked as a Species

An article from Newsweek has been making the rounds which details new research in physiology claiming that humans have reached the peak of our height, lifespan, and physical fitness. It provides an uncommon perspective on the state of our evolution, our health, and the world we live in.

Using data gathered over 120 years, it appears as if we’ve reached our peak. In the NBA for example, changes in average height have plateaued among their players–some of the tallest (and healthiest) people of the world. In many countries, average heights have actually decreased or plateaued as well in recent memory.

The incidence of super-agers who live past 100 years is super-rare, and based on some research it would appear that our average lifespans have either plateaued or decreased as well.

Furthermore, world records in Olympic sports have stopped falling as dramatically as they did in the early 20th century.

But how does any of this actually affect us right here, and right now? I don’t claim to be a scientist in these matters or a prognosticator of any sort. And maybe it’s just the unconditionally positive person in me, but I’m extremely optimistic that we still have a long way to go.

This is a good thing. Why? Because we still have incredible room for improvement in all aspects of life. If they do exist, it’s not hard to find what exactly our current limits are in terms of height, lifespan, and athletic performance. But how many of us are actually at those current limits? The truth is, the overwhelming majority of us aren’t even close.

Until it’s more commonplace for us to be over 6 feet tall or for an increasing number of us to live past 100, I have trouble accepting that we have reached our peak. A lot of the progress we made in health, fitness, and performance in the early 20th century can be attributed to industrialization and technological advances that created a nurturing and healthy environment for our ancestors to grow and live in; those same environmental factors now work against us, as we’ve been seeing the after-effects of that rapid industrialization. Sitting is the new smoking. Obesity is an epidemic. Modern technology and social media might be destroying us.

But many of us recognize those current problems and seek to solve them. Science still advances, and there’s hope. If we can reverse these negative changes, we can once again create environmental factors favorable to our survival and evolution as a species.

by Jeremy Lau