In Live Well, Live Long (Deadman 2016), exercise is presented in its historical context. For centuries physical activity was seamlessly interwoven into everyday life: cleaning the house, digging, chopping wood, hunting food and only in our modern, relatively wealthy society has a disconnect occurred. Machines now do many of our daily tasks and many of us simply sit at a desk all day doing very little physical movement. Yet lack of physical activity is one of the greatest contributions to virtually every kind of disease, shortened life and mental and physical decline in old age. Deadman presents the research in support of this and concludes
“exercise or more broadly physical movement, has been shown to be one of the most powerful health practices that we can follow” (pg 188).
Eye-catchingly it is not many tedious hours down the gym or running miles in the rain, but simply movement.
We don’t have to do much too either. The evidence quoted shows the health benefits of exercise is reversed when this becomes extreme. Light to moderate exercise is better than 50 minutes of daily vigorous physical activity (pg 192). It was disturbing to read about how endurance athletes suffered enlarged hearts and were more prone to upper respiratory conditions such as asthma. Too much exercise, especially when tired, can lead to exhaustion and stress and is no longer invigorating.
In Chinese medicine terms when we exercise our Qi and blood is flowing freely we feel good. How do we know what’s a good amount of exercise for us? Deadman tells us that a rough guide is if we feel energised after exercise, even though we felt fatigued beforehand, this is a sign that there was enough energy but that it was blocked and unavailable for us (we say Qi stagnation and is often due to emotional reasons or stress). If, however, we feel even more exhausted after exercise, this indicates real deficiency and means we should rest, and when we do exercise, do so gently until we feel restored. I think this is good advice during the post Christmas period, where the temptation may be to push ourselves beyond the limits of our bodies, leaving us stressed and fatigued, so we easily give up on our intentions to ‘get fit’ and slouch exhausted in front of the TV.
The Asian view of exercise isn’t doing the least amount of exercise for the ‘highest return’ such as High Intensity Interval Training, which has gained popularity in recent times, but takes a broader approach connecting both mind and body. Exercise is best when varied, such as sports, games, martial arts, dancing, tai chi, walking etc. Being fully present and mentally absorbed in our exercise and breathing, remaining emotionally centred is best. In this way we feel fully alive and connected to our body, developing stamina, flexibility, strong bones and enjoying social interaction.
More about Live Well, Live Long: Teachings from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Tradition, Peter Deadman (2016) The Journal of Chinese Medicine Ltd.
Live Well, Live Long gives advice on how to live a healthy life based on traditional Chinese teachings. The book is written by Peter Deadman who has had a lifelong interest in health cultivation, first through his Brighton natural foods shop in the 1970s and then as a Chinese Medicine practitioner, teacher and writer. The Chinese tradition of nourishing life has been developed over more than 25 centuries. This book gives us an insight into some sparkling gems of wisdom. An afterlife does not feature in Chinese religious, spiritual and philosophical traditions. Deadman says this life is the only one we have or will ever have. A long life is seen as a blessing and it is vital to enjoy, protect and preserve it for its entire natural span. Live Well, Live Long takes us from birth to death and gives us a comprehensive manual for living (and dying), backed up by lots of research.
Listen to Peter Deadman introduce his book in this talk: