I caught a news story on diabetes recently which was closer to fear-mongering than news as the presenter stated that over half a million Australians could have diabetes without even knowing it, because they are currently symptom free. They went on to say that if these 500,000 people didn’t get help they could end up with amputated limbs, blindness and other terrible symptoms. Type 2 diabetes is connected to poor diet and lack of exercise, but the presenter suggested that even healthy and fit people are prone to this disease. To back this up they interviewed a middle-aged ‘healthy’ guy who said he ate well (as in he had fruit every day) and walked over 10,000 steps a day, and couldn’t believe he had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Take up medicinal exercise
This idea of ‘healthy’ can’t counter the symptoms of the sedentary, high stress, overcommitted and time-deprived contemporary lifestyle. The very definition of ‘healthy’ has to change. New research into ‘exercise as medicine’ has proved that we need an hour a day of fairly energetic exercise just to counter the damage done by sitting at a desk all day (stagnation in TCM language). And we need another hour to promote healthy body systems. I have to say I feel vindicated here as I’ve been writing and talking about needing 2 hours of exercise a day for years; and about how exercising from 5am – 7am will totally transform your life. People regularly respond to this by telling me that I’m excessive (which is true) but you don’t have to be pumping iron or running a marathon for two hours, just moving. Counting steps with a fitbit is all very well, but it is not medicinal exercise and we need medicinal exercise and medicinal food to be able to hold off the lifestyle diseases and thrive as we are destined to.
It’s not just about what you eat…
Regarding diet, health is not just about what, but also about how and when we eat. Regular warm meals are essential but over 80% of Australians skip breakfast, and most people rush or skip lunch, or have a salad or sandwich while working; and then have a large evening meal. This is the reverse of eating for health. Skipping breakfast, rushing and sandwich-munching lunches don’t allow yin to be nourished. Consequently yang gets out of control. Yang is acidic, it generates heat energies in the body, it pushes sugar (energy) into the blood stream. If there is no yin to control the energy / sugar, it climbs and spikes. Symptoms including elevated blood sugar levels manifest. This affects the kidneys (the mother of yin and yang) which are now unable to generate healthy cooling yin to control the energy / sugar spike. You get trapped in an ‘up up up’ mode. Chi can’t descend because yang pushes it all up to the head causing an overactive mind, you can’t switch-off or relax enough to build yin.
Don’t starve your organs
Organs are starved of the chi required for nutrient assimilation. In this state people feel the urge to get ‘healthy’ and turn to foods like salads and fruit, but your organs can’t handle cold and raw foods at the best of times (they long for warm, cooked meals) so they suffer and function is impaired. Then nutritive chi doesn’t get distributed to the limbs and this causes circulation problems. All of these symptoms come under the umbrella of ‘type 2 diabetes’. Lifestyles of constant rushing, irregular meals (your organs love regularity) and not nourishing yin underpin the type 2 diabetes epidemic. But lifestyle can also ride to the rescue as preventative medicine. Put your organs first, make following yin and yang a top health priority, and generate lots of chi for your organs, and you have the antidote. Find out more in my book Clock On To Health.
Here’s a look into my medicinal exercise routine
My two hours each morning go like this: 30 minutes core training with stretching; 1 hour Chen-style tai chi; 30 minutes HIIT bodyweight (chin-ups, push-ups, squats) and by 7am I’m feeling pretty good (don’t necessarily feel that way when I wake up). But if you can’t do 2 hours in the morning break it up, an hour before breakfast and then after work. Exercise is powerful medicine if you have a prescription, if you know what and how to do it, and when, you get awesome therapeutic results!
ps: I don’t jump out of bed looking forward to this, but push through the resistance because the reward of health is priceless.