Movement is Life
Your lifestyle choices have the largest impact on your health. Your body is made of about 100 trillion cells all living, working, dying and composting themselves constantly with one another in a way that enables your living existence. Genetics do play a role in many diseases, but do not in anyway underestimate the power you have to control your health with diet and exercise.
A large body of scientific evidence is building that supports the thesis that "movement is life". Sedentary lifestyles of limited physical activity have been linked to a wide range of preventable diseases and illnesses. Our cognitive performance and mood stability are even affected by our physical activity level. There is a great book called "Spark" that explores the relationship between exercise and the brain. Know that moving more and eating less is probably a good path to success if you are trying to burn off unwanted fat. Eating healthy foods and avoiding toxic substance will also improve your overall health. As Americans we have a lot of room for improvement with preventable medicine through healthy lifestyle choices. There is no magic pill, you have to live a healthy lifestyle to enjoy good health while you are alive. It is not about living longer, it is about living more fully and free from preventable sickness while we are alive. I have written about the benefits of active living before: http://priusblack.blogspot.com/2012/01/active-life-for-better-mind.html
A link to the book I referenced:
Reasons to Stay Active
Boost and Balance Your Immune System
Physical activity and the immune system are related in several ways. When you move around the contents of your GI (gastro-intestinal) system are moved along. The health of your immune system is related to the health of your digestive system. Bacterial and fungal lifeforms (intestinal flora) form a mutualistic ecosystem in your digestive system. Movement helps to keep everything circulating effectively in your GI, which boosts the healthy of your GI, which improves your immune system.
Recovery from Viral agents (flu and cold) is accelerated by regular physical activity. If you live an active lifestyle your body will be stronger and more resistent to viral agents in the first place. When you do become sick with a cold or flu virus, staying active can speed up your recovery. Make sure to stay well hydrated and rest, especially when your are sick, but remember that physical activity is good for your overal health, and in boosting your overall health, physical activity also helps you to resist viral agents and to recover from a viral infection.
Keep Your Heart Healthy
Physical activity and cardio-vascular health are related to one another in a number of important ways. Physical activity opens up the airways which can help with asthma. The lung tissue moisturizing process that occurs when your are breathing deeply and intensely during physical activity can help to clear materials from the lungs that cause COPD. Regular physical activity also helps to exercise the heart muscles, to keep the heart muscles lean and efficient.
Reduce Joint Pain
Physical activity and joint health are related in an interesting way. "A body in motion, tends to stay in motion" but staying active and moving can be a challenge in a society that encourages sitting often at home and at work and in the car. Somewhat counter-intuitively staying active can actually ease joint pain. Stretching before and after activity can also help to loosen up the tendons and ligaments in joints that often cause pain when they are stiff and tight. Regular physical activity also prevents joint damage because the activity helps to keep the stabilizing muscles that support our joints in good shape, which keeps joint alignment in good shape, which reduces wear and tear on our joints.
Physical activity can boost your overal energy, strength and endurance. Many people find that there "computer heavy" lives make them feel tired and bored. They sleep, walk a little bit in the morning ritual, hop in the car and drive (sitting), walk a little to get to work, sit at a computer, and then repeat the cycle in reverse on the way home in the evening. After work many of these people feel exhausted even though they have not done a lot of active movement. Physical activity gives us energy by boosting our metabolism. Staying active keeps energy level higher, and this makes for more energy during the day, but also helps to improve sleep quality at night. People who engage in regular physical activity have more stamina, feel a greater sense of wakefulness, and enjoy and overal improvement in alertness and concentration.
Physical activity and mental health are also directly related. Physical activity can boost mood and reducing depression as much as popular anti-depressant drugs without any side effects. Physical activity increases brain "flexibility". Our brains can learn new taks and process information more efficiently if we stay active. Your brains performance is also related to your general health. If you stay active and eat a nutritious healthy diet, you are giving your brain the building blocks and conditions needed to keep it functioning optimally. Think of how active children are when they are learning language. The rapid brain development that occurs in early childhood is facilitated by higher physical activity levels. We can even see this in puppies and kittens. Also with children, puppies and kittens, we can see that sleep is very restorative. Staying active can enhance your drive and ambition. Physical activity can also help to level our emotional swings to keep your stable and level headed.
There are cool digital tools now for quantifying your activity level. A Fitbit One for example, is a digital activity tracker that logs your movement during the day and at night while you are sleeping. It can track your activity level by monitoring subtle changes in barometric pressure and acceleration, which it runs through special software to extrapolate activity information. Other products like the Fitbit One exist, but the Fitbit happen to be my personal favorite, and the one I ended up buying after thoroughly reviewing all of the available fitness trackers online. I purchased mine at bestbuy, to support my local retail branch, and to keep with my reward-zone status.
Tracking Your Progress
Staying active is easy once you get going and integrate it into your life as a behavior pattern. Many people get "out of the swing" because of an injury that knocks them out for 6 or 8 weeks. Think about it carefully before you start up physical activities if you have been living a sedentary lifestyle for a long time. For many, just going for a 20 min walk, twice a week is a good place to start. If that is really easy, increase it to three days per week. If you still find this easy, increase your time to 30 min for each session. Your goal is to slowly get up to being able to do 1 hour of cardio at 65% of your maximum heart rate three times per week. Always take a day of rest in-between workout days. A good schedule is Monday, Wednesday, Friday: during the work week, before or after work. You can do light weight training on your Off days: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, but remember to start our slow and steady. Some people stop working out regularly because they start out too strong and burn out psychologically. The goal is to make activity part of your lifestyle. You will succeed at staying active if you make physical activity a behavioral pattern, which can take several months of repetition at 3 times per week.
There are digital tools you can use to track your progress. In the past I used the pedestrian mode on my Garmin GPS unit to track distance covered while walking. This is a little cumbersome, but works fine so long as you charge the battery up before departing.
Many modern smartphones like the iPhone and many Android handset have built in fitness tracking tools that are available to users through mobil apps like Lose It. Even the iPod Touch and iPod nano have built in pedometer functions.
Activity tracking devices are also widely available. The Fitbit one for example is a tiny little activity tracking device that you can wear 24 hours per day. When you are awake you put it in your pocket or attach it to your clothing on your torso with a clip that it comes with. When you go to sleep you slip it into a wristband and it tracks your sleeping pattern. You can even set an alarm clock that gently vibrates your wrist to wake you up. Nike makes something called a fuel-band, and other companies make similar products. The Fitbit one is really cool because you own your data and have tight control over it. Other fitness tracking products are more tightly integrated with web sharing tools that require you to share your data when you sync up. The Fitbit One is also cool because it can perform a wireless sync to your computer. You can learn more about the Fitbit One on Fitbit's web site: http://www.fitbit.com/one
Activities like skiing, sail boat operating, golf, tennis, rowing, basketball and other sports have to be logged manually into App's like Lose It because they produce irregular movements that are hard for activity trackers to currently quantify. Activity trackers like the Fitbit One are best used to monitor your general activity level for day to day if you are not an athlete. These fitness tracking functions are ideal for the overwhelming majority of people. To stay healthy you need to average about 10,000 steps per day. The average American is getting between 3,000 and 6,000 steps per day, well bellow what is required to maintain a healthy heart, mind, immune system and spirit.
I believe there are special iphone apps that help to track cycling and skiing and other distance activities using the sensors and GPS built into the iPhone. I do not and will not operate a smartphone in the near future because of the required mobile data plans that the large wireless operators are forcing on their customers. If and or when I do obtain an iPhone, I will write a different OP-ED posting about it. That said I have no experience using an iPhone or other smartphone as a fitness tracker, so I will not speak this since I am unfamiliar with it personally. I know only that some cyclists post their route data online, and it contains topography information that tells you how topographically challenging their route was. One example I saw from an android handset was "Google My Tracks" You can also track your bicycle activity with a simple cycle computer: I personally like the ones made by Sigma : http://www.sigmasport.com/us/startseite/
The Role of Diet in Health and Fitness
This subject is far to complicated to cover in detail in this posting, but I will mention a few main take home points about the role of diet in health and fitness. You want to try to "eat the rainbow" of fresh fruits and vegetables regularly. If you know that your diet is not nutritionally complete, taking a multivitamin can help to fill in the gaps.
Hydration is really important to your overall health. Staying hydrated is important because water is used to buffer away the waste products from our cells. Remember that our bodies are a collection of approximately 100 trillion cells all living together. When we take in the right amount of water, our cells stay hydrated and flushed of toxic waste products. The muscles for example produce a chemical called lactic acid, that gives the "burn" to working out. You can reduce this "burn" and enhance your endurance by staying hydrated.
Most Americans consumer far too many simple carbohydrates and sugars: hi-glycemic index foods that stress our endocrine systems. Many Americans also consume far too much saturated dangerous fats, and not enough healthy fats. Protein is important, and you can get protein from rice, peas, artichokes, fish, chicken and beef. Many people only think of meat as a protein source, but even plants like hemp and soy produce abundant amounts of protein.
If you do not understand nutrition, reading about the subject should help you to make better food choices. Many of the diseases that Americans suffer from can be traced to their imbalanced diet choices.
Avoiding Toxic Substances
Organic is important because shopping organic is one of the only ways that Americans can avoid toxic pesticides linked to cancer, chemicals know to disrupt the immune system and chemical agents that cause auto-immune diseases, and neurotoxic substances that promote cognitive decline. Organic foods are also free of genetically engineered substances of questionable toxicity: essentially they are engineering plants like corn and soy to produce pesticides in their plant tissue where it can not be washed off. Eating these GMO foods is questionable at best. Since they were introduce to the American foods markets in the late 1980's, the GMO industry, primarily Evil Fucking Monsanto, have lobbied to keep GMO labels off our foods to keep consumers in the dark about what they are buying and eating. Essentially Monsanto is conspiring with law makers to trick consumers. This is sleazy and unethical and outright insidiously evil for many reasons. The easy and safe way to avoid these GMO franken-food nightmares is to simply shop for organic.
We live in a toxic world of industrial pollution. Coal power plants, the tail pipes of vehicles, industrial metal smelting operations, paper pulp processing operations, oil production and refining operations, industrial farm chemicals: we are literally surrounded by toxic pollutants because of greedy evil companies that externalized their toxic waste output into our air and water in order to increase and maintain their lucrative business models. This is a complex topic that I have written about in other postings:
We also have toxins in our homes if we are not careful consumers. Many perfumes for example contain extremely toxic substances. You should never spray cologne or perfume on your skin, and if you do choose to wear it, spray it on your clothing, not your body. Similarly, synthetic scent chemicals added to soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, and other hygiene products are known to be toxic. Many consumer products that contain fabrics and plastic are chemically treated with brominated flame retardants (BFR's), a class chemicals linked to autism and other neurological diseases and conditions. Toxic solvents and dangerous household cleaning products are also commonly used in American homes. Lawn and garden chemicals, especially pest management chemicals, are some of the most toxic substance the consumers come into contact with. Gas powered lawn mowers are also a big source of carcinogens because they predominately omit emissions control equipment: so the user of these gas powered yard machines breaths in 23 times more cancer causing fume for every gallon burned in a yard tool vs the emissions created by a modern vehicle burning the same gallon of gas. Electric yard tools with strong lithium iron phosphate batteries are now widely available to consumers. Recycle that old dirty carbon burning lawn mower, weed wacker or other powered yard tool, and get on with upgrading to a much cleaner electric setup. The real trick to understanding these issues boils down to understanding that everything is connected: http://priusblack.blogspot.com/2012/05/everything-is-connected.html
As with so many other things, health and fitness are layered issues that combine aspects of eating healthy nutritious organic foods, moving enough with physical activities and avoiding toxic substances like synthetic perfume chemicals, coal power emissions, lawn mower fumes, pesticides, GMO's and vehicle smog.
Remember that every time you spend money on something you are casting a vote for the system that created it. If you invest in safe organic food, staying fit and active, and living healthy, you will enjoy life more while you are alive and probably also come to understand why environmentalists care about climate change, soil conservation and organic agriculture. When you stay fit your mind will work better, enabling you to understand everything more completely, granting you the ability to more fully appreciate God's beautiful creation; Life on Earth!
You might consider that things are slowly getting better despite a long history of toxic changes in mankind's development of earth. We can see signs of positive changes all around us. I wrote about this recently too: