|Exercise and Weight Loss||(select)|
The Human Energy Field
Life was once a much more physical experience. Our daily activities not only included the hunting and gathering of food, but its preparation as well. We had to chop wood, build shelter, and haul water. Anywhere we wanted to go—we walked.
Movement was fairly constant from the moment we woke up in the morning to the time we went to bed. Once we became more urban, road building, aqueduct construction, farming and ranching were conducted without the aid of heavy machinery or power tools.
While these activities probably provided the calorie burning and resistance training to build able, strong bodies, it is likely that aerobic activity came from the “huffing and puffing” that accompanies such physical effort.
It has been argued that modern exercise should simulate our ancestral exercise. Indeed, recent research has found that the longest living inhabitants on the planet do just that. National Geographic Magazine (2005) identified three of these populations in Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), and Loma Linda (California), and found that “constant, moderate physical exercise” throughout the day was common to all three. This is in contrast to not only individuals who do not exercise at all, but also those who exercise vigorously for short periods each day.
While other factors
were common to these populations such as 1) a high regard for family,
2) a plant-based diet, 3) no smoking, and 4) extensive social engagement,
it would seem that a lifestyle that requires constant movement would be
the optimal solution for exercise. In modern times though, few jobs would
seem to offer the constant movement of our ancestor's vocations. Even
those individuals who have physically active jobs are aided by automobiles
and all the other conveniences of modern life, so a direct comparison
to our ancestors is not possible. Still, a list of constant-activity professions
might look like this:
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|Agricultural Worker||Construction Worker||Mailperson|
|Baggage Handler||Dance Instructor||Ranch Worker|
|Baker||Gardener||UPS, FedEx Driver|
|Chef||Housekeeper||Waitress or Waiter|
It is probably not realistic for most of us with established careers to change to calorie-burning vocations, although many make such a choice early in their professional lives when they avoid the classic "desk job." It is unlikely that our ancestors who had the historical equivalent of a desk job "went for a run after work" to make up for their lack of exercise. In modern times, ignoring physical activity is not an option since it has become so evident how sedentary living puts our health, and often our self-esteem, at risk. Consider some of the following guidelines when trying to bring exercise into your life:
1. There is no substitute for excitement. Make a list of physical activities that you are truly excited about (It might be a short list). You will not stay with anything that doesn't excite you unless you have to, and many times we don't consider exercise as something we have to do. We do things we want to do.
2. Enlist an exercise partner or group of partners. We're social animals and statistics show we are much more successful at exercise when do it with someone else.
3. Get involved in
something competitive. For some of us (not all), competition makes all
the difference. The competition may be with yourself or with someone else,
but it often brings out the best in us.
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Government figures now say two-thirds of Americans are overweight. One-third are considered obese. Surveys say that 40% are totally sedentary, never engaging in any exercise, sports, or hobbies in their leisure time.
Historians say that we burn somewhere between 800 and 1200 fewer calories per day than our ancestors. This translates into 80-120 pounds of body weight per year. What is sometimes not mentioned though, is that these same ancestors made up for this additional calorie expenditure by eating more food.
This is as true today as it was then. The more we exercise, the more we eat.
This basic fact has limited the success of exercise as an isolated intervention in weight loss. It would not apparently matter whether we burn 1000 calories per day and ingest 1500, or burn 3000 calories per day and ingest 3500—OR DOES IT?
While no one would argue the value of exercise regarding overall fitness, weight loss would seem to be affected by the kind of calories we eat. In other words, it's not just calories in, calories out.
Whether the calories we ingest are sent to fat cells to be stored, or muscle to be burned, is largely determined by the hormone insulin. Insulin is spiked by simple carbohydrates such as sweets, bread, pasta, cereal, and potatoes. This partitions calories out to fat cells for storage rather than to muscle for burning.
So while additional food consumption has proven to be largely unavoidable when we exercise more, it's important that this additional food not be composed of simple carbohydrates. Indeed, those who successfully use exercise to lose weight invariably eliminate carbohydrate "junk food" as part of their plan.
So why do we like junk food? To the credit of all the research scientists in the fast-food laboratories in the world, they have successfully engineered our tastes to like their crackers, chips, cookies, cake, bread, pasta, and sweets. Junk food serves another purpose though—it medicates negative emotion. Whether you are angry, anxious, depressed, bored, lonely, or frustrated, junk food is always there as "man's best friend."
To get at the emotional
roots of the feelings that drive this desire for fast food, visit the
article on this website entitled "The
Root of Obesity." A regular relaxation strategy such as
"A Guided Visualization
to Weight Loss and Healthy Digestion" can be effective
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Exercise serves another important and overlooked function—that is to clear and invigorate the human energy field. It is rapidly being recognized by all scientific traditions that an invisible energy field is present within and around the human body. Chinese medicine has recognized this for thousands of years and acupuncturists regularly manipulate the energy pathways (meridians) in this field with needles.
That Enliven This Field
The quality of this field is subject to a multitude of influences. Low-energy food, dysfunctional relationships, toxic working environments, and violence in TV, video games, and movies and are all negative influences. Extended periods of sitting make it thick and sluggish, and we subjectively experience it as lethargy or fatigue.
Physical activities that particularly enliven this field utilize the seven basic, primal movements of our ancestors identified by author/teacher Paul Chek. Those movements include 1) walking 2) squatting 3) bending 4) twisting 5) pulling 6) pushing 7) and lunging. Some of the best activities that in varying degrees utilize all seven are dancing, skiing, swimming, tennis, and the martial arts.
Dancing, for example, requires stepping (walking), squats (squatting), bending yourself and your partner (bending), turns (twisting), moving your partner toward and away from you (pulling and pushing), and lunges (lunging).
Kundalini yoga enthusiasts, for many years, have taught spinal flexibility and breathing exercises that energize this field as well. A related approach, and one of the best I've seen, is taught by trainer and teacher Scott Sonnon on a DVD video entitled "Intu-Flow" (available here). This program takes only 10-20 minutes to perform each day and utilizes range of motion exercises for all the joints of the body. It methodically starts at the top of the skeleton (the neck, or cervical vertebrae), and uses various rotation movements. From there it progresses to the shoulders, the elbows, wrists, and hands. Similar exercises are subsequently performed at the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, hips, knees, ankles, and feet.
This is one of the best (and easiest) routines to enliven the human energy field and clear it of waste. It requires little time or effort, and can be performed by people of any age or ability. Some remarkable testimonials regarding its health benefits can be seen here.
When I can do no other activity, I at least do that one. Often, it leads to more vigorous exercise, but it does work as a standalone activity. While it does not have the calorie-burning capacity of the "constant, moderate physical exercise" of our ancestors, its effectiveness in clearing our energies, improving mood, and instilling feelings of vitality is unmatched.