Continuing for another week about our health and how Tai Chi fits into our health picture.
Vitality – definition
1 a : lively and animated character
b : power of enduring
2 a : the peculiarity distinguishing the living from the nonliving
b : capacity to live and develop
also: physical or mental vigor especially when highly developed
A long time ago I used to drink three to four (or more) 32 oz cups of Dr. Pepper. That is a lot of sugar and caffeine!!! I also used to get sick on a regular basis. During that time a doctor told me I needed to cut my soda consumption back drastically (I also weighed 30 pounds more than I do now). That same doctor told me “I don’t care how much you exercise, you will not gain back the harm you are doing to your body by drinking that much soda”.
In 2012 a movie named “Vitality” came out with little fanfare. I ran across it when I was doing a search for movies about health. I changed the way I looked at health and gave me a great blueprint to move towards a healthier lifestyle. Last week we saw the amazing things Tai Chi can help us with to live healthier, but there is more to the health picture than just doing Tai Chi. I think the movie Vitality hits on those good points. It also lays it out in a way that is easy to understand. I will give you a link at the end where you can watch the movie. Of course I recommend watching it. It is 96 minutes well spent.
Vitality starts out with the brutal statistic that 90% of Doctor visits are due to stress!
Vitality is living a happy and healthy life. There are four parts or “spokes” that make up a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, Diet, Sleep and Mindset. The four spokes are not independent of one another, but work together to create a healthy you.
“Sitting is one of the most damaging things we do for our health”. The average person spends 9.3 hours per day sitting and 7.3 hours a day sleeping. That is a total of about 17 hours per day that we don’t move!!! That means we spend 70% of our day not moving!!! Our bodies were designed to move. It is inactivity not old age that causes us to lose muscle mass. I loved the quote from the movie “Life is movement and movement is life”. By the way, in the exercise segment of the movement, look at the way the gentleman is doing a squat. For my Shibashi friends that is the way we want to do our squats. Notice how he keeps his back straight.
Sugar, white flour, high fructose corn syrup – all killers. Our diets consist of more and more processed food. Another interesting fact from the movie, “Inflammation is associated with most of the chronic diseases we suffer from today”. There is a great explanation in the movie about how inflammation affects our bodies. A couple of other points that are well addressed in the movie:
Missing meals creates adrenal stress
Combining the wrong foods creates additional health problems
Our immune system is very sensitive to environmental toxins
Most people are chronically dehydrated
My students know this last point is something I talk about often. Our bodies need water to function, most people don’t get enough. I had one student that was having leg cramps. I told her she may want to drink more water. Her personal trainer told her the same thing. She then went to her cardiologist, he drew a blood panel, guess what he found? She was dehydrated. The latest recommendation is one half to one ounce of water for every pound you weigh!
The other point the movie brings up that I have found in my own life, that meal preparation and family dinners creates a social environment that is healthy for us. One of my most favorite times is sitting down with my family and talking about our day. My girls had friends stay over for New Years, the next morning we all had breakfast and talked about our hopes, dreams and goals for 2020. If was a great way to start the new year off.
One more point on this subject that isn’t in the movie. There are two great sites to help you eat healthy. There is a group that rates what fruits and vegetables are more likely to be clean or have contamination. They have labeled them the
Dirty Dozen https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php. Check them out.
We get 2 hours of sleep per night less than our parents. In our busy life, sleep is what gets left out. Sleep is the way our body recovers. It is not only the quantity of sleep but the quality of sleep. Five things you can do to help you sleep better:
No caffeine after noon during the day
Make the bedroom for only sleeping and sex
Do activities before bedtime that don’t get you would up
Keep fresh air coming into the room
Keep your room dark
I would also add on my own to this list... to practice your deep breathing to help you sleep or to get back to sleep. This has helped many of my students.
One of the first benefits I noticed when I started Tai Chi was I started sleeping better. At the time I was working a high stress job. On the days I did Tai Chi I would sleep better.
If your body is a vehicle and you are the driver, how are you driving your vehicle? Are you constantly pushing your body to the extreme and not letting it recover? Accelerating fast, stopping hard, weaving in and out? Are you constantly under stress?
Vitality claims that stress contributes to the majority of chronic illnesses people experience. They have a great explanation of how stress effects your whole body. Stress causes the blood vessels in your gut to constrict and force blood to the extremities, the main organs needed for health and maintenance shut down. Stress pushes blood from our fore brain to our hind brain (is this why the front of our head hurts when we are under stress?) which pushes us to a reactive mode. The movie also suggests stress makes us less intelligent since it shuts down the conscious brain.
Deep breathing has been shown to reduce stress in your life. Several of my students have been helped by using meditation (especially my Parkinson friends) to help with symptoms and stress in their life. One of my recent students started to do deep breathing every day and describes the result as a fog being lifted from his mind during the rest of the day.
The movie also describes the effect energy has on our body. Energy shapes our physical world. Energy controls matter. Energy = Qi. How is your Qi? We use Tai Chi is build our Qi. We need to find meaning and purpose in our life; this will also help build Qi.
The movie sums up this way.
“As we start to increase our exercise, we release endorphins that make us feel better and gets our blood flowing. This turns our engine on and wakes up our metabolism. As we start to pull higher quality fuel into our bodies we get more nutrients, again bringing up the overall energy of the system. We learn to relax more during the day and sleep better at night which helps the body recover and fight off disease better. As we learn to control our stress response and find some meaning and purpose in life the wasted energy here gets feed back into the wheel bringing energy, happiness and health back into our lives.” Read that twice (or more).
We (and our health care system) need to look at us in our entirety. We need to move from a sick care to a health care model. Putting an emphasis on the whole being. Focusing on lifestyle and enhancement of vitality, not just fighting off sickness and disease.
My challenge to you this week is to look at all of the health choices you are making. You don’t have to make huge changes in your life. Don’t try to do it all at once. Just start to make some adjustments in your exercise routine (20 in 2020). Adjust your diet to less processed and more healthy food. Go to bed a little earlier and do something fun.
Watch the movie Vitality -- you can stream it here.
If you have a bad week or stray off course, come to class and watch the movie again.
Or if you don’t stream I have a couple of copies I can lend them out as available.
I’m looking forward to a happy and healthy 2020 for everyone. You can make the difference in your life. Start today!!!