While it is true that many people aren’t moving enough, and a sedentary lifestyle isn’t recommended, those who are moving are often working too hard. We were designed to have balance. Our ancestors were active and moved regularly; however, much of their movement was slow, unless they happened to be chasing prey.
Life was slow-paced for our ancestors. There was no TV or other electronic devices, no jobs to rush off to, no commuting, and no fast-paced exercise classes. If you think about what a person would have witnessed during his or her day of work back then, they could have easily described every detail of their day within a few minutes. If you compare that to the life we live today with the hundreds of events we experience in a day, it is a very different lifestyle.
The best way to describe natural balance is with the eastern philosophy of Yin and Yang. Yin helps us build energy (recharge our energy stores). Yang is a strong output of energy. We are designed to have an equal balance of both, but these days, many people have a strong domination of yang.
Examples of yin activities include:
- Slow breathing
- Internal martial arts like Tai Qi or Qi Gong
Examples of yang activities include:
- Fast-paced exercise classes like RPM, Body combat, aerobics, or zumba
- External martial arts like Tae Kwon Do, Karate, or Kung Ku
- Rushing in the mornings
- Rushing throughout the day
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Fast-paced jobs
- Eating food on the run
- Mind-chatter (thinking about what you need to do, when, and what could go wrong, and what did go wrong, and who really pissed you off, etc)
As you can see, most people are too yang. Does it matter? Yes. Too much yang energy means we are likely too much on the go and we could be burning out our adrenal glands. It is like using a battery over and over again, without recharging it. Eventually, it runs low, and is trying to power something with very little energy. And then, it runs out completely. We need to re-charge, just like a battery, so that we can keep living with energy and vitality. Most people don’t realise just how burnt out they are, and just how hard their adrenals are overworked. This can cause many issues later in life. One obvious symptom is chronic fatigue, but there are many others, including hormone imbalance. Women make the appropriate level of hormones to help them function well, and once their own natural hormones decrease, the adrenals kick in and take over hormone production. What happens if you have burnt out adrenals? Peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms can be a lot more uncomfortable if we no longer have adequate hormone production. Some of the major symptoms of hormone imbalance during this crucial time are depression, complete lack of energy, and no lustre for life. What an awful way to go through your prime years; your 40’s and beyond.
What is the answer? There is nothing wrong with yang exercise, and in fact, it is meant to be part of our lives. But we do need a balance, and time to recharge. Replacing some of our yang activities with some yin activities is a great start. The best way to do that is to eliminate stress, and rushing around. We can still achieve an enormous amount, and in fact, often a lot more, if we are calm, and move slowly through life. Regular meditation is a great way to slow down. As you move through the day, become more conscious of what you are doing moment to moment, and enjoy it; stop thinking about what happened previously and what will happen. Then some yang exercise is a great way to release energy, emotion, and get fit.
We don’t need to exercise hard and make it a slog to get fit. For example, I like doing weights to keep my bones strong and maintain my muscle mass as I get older. But, I do them slightly differently than most people. I used to train twice a week, but now I only lift weights once a week to maintain my strength. I know many people who train 5 or 6 days in the gym, and we are fairly comparable in how we look, even though, I am in the gym only a fraction of the time. That being said, being keto helps me burn more fat and build more muscle, so that is a definite advantage.
The other thing to remember is that while exercise is healthy, it can be counter-productive if we are not well. Once we change our diet and start feeling better, then exercise is a fantastic addition to a healthy lifestyle.