Seven tips for your healthy life 健康への７つのアドバイス
I happen to be one of the healthiest persons I know and have met in my life. I am 71 years old this year and I rarely get sick even at my age. In fact, I cannot remember when I caught a cold the last time. I do not suffer from any allergies either. So far, I have never suffered a serious illness in my life like an appendicitis or a gall bladder infection. I even surprise myself that I can stay healthy despite of all the international travels I do around the world with the different local water and variety of dishes in different countries.
It did not happen by an accident. First of all, I must have received the healthy genes from my parents. My father lived to 85 and my mother to 88. They were healthy most of their lives but they got sick like a normal (?) person. That is, of course, not the only reason why I can stay healthy. I follow some heath rules that are keeping me healthy. One of them is of course practicing karate and exercising Ki but that is not what I will present here. There are a lot more things I pay attention to, but today I want to share the main ideas (7 tips) that I exercise daily to keep me healthy. I believe in those ideas and I can tell you that they work for me and should work for you too.
I feel confident that exercising the seven things that are described below will be good for your health, however, I must emphasize that this is not a medical advice as I am not licensed nor professional in the medical field. You need to evaluate what you read here on your own and make your own judgment if anyone of these ideas is good for you. Perhaps one or more ideas may not work or bring any benefit to you. On the other hand, there is nothing to lose so why not try? If you find that any of them is a viable choice then there is one thing you must do; you must keep doing it at least for 3 months. You must commit and have that much of patience if you want to see any positive result.
Here are the seven tips to improve your health and keep you healthy. There are fundamentally two types in the tips. One is something very simple and you can exercise immediately. The other will require more time and some planning. Let us start with the ones that you can do immediately and easily.
Breathe through your nose
This one is probably one of the easiest ones to do out of all the tips here. We all breathe but most of us do not pay attention to how we breathe. One important tip I share is that be sure to breathe through your nose at all time. I am particularly talking about inhalation and it is ok if you exhale through your mouth especially when you are exercising. If you know that you snore or keep your mouth open while you are asleep, you can try to sleep on your side though it is almost impossible to control your body position once you fell asleep. The reason why you want to inhale through your nose is simple. If you inhale through your mouth you are not only taking in air but also all those germs. On the other hand, if you do through your nose, its passages will filter a lot of them. Even if you do not take care of your breathing while you are asleep, by paying attention to this while you are awake will have a positive result.
Once you believe that you are regularly breathing through your nose, you can add the deep breathing to your daily exercise. To be able to do the proper deep breathing it will require some training. Without such training it will be difficult to reduce your breathing cycle to 2 per minute or less. However, you can always start from 4 or 5 breathing cycles per minute. I have already written an article about this subject and its health benefits. If you want to learn the precise way to do deep breathing, read my article on “Deep breathing” which can be found in Karate Coaching blog.
I am writing a separate essay on how to improve your breathing. Breathing is an “ignored” subject in karate training. It has many benefits and it should be discussed more and in depth. I hope to complete it by middle of October. I will make an announcement when this essay is posted.
#2 Mental or mind set
Positive thinking, smile and laugh
This could be a controversial subject but I dare to add this because I believe in the positive results that can come out of these ideas. This tip is also very easy to exercise and can be done immediately. However, it may require some mind switch.
I recommend positive thinking not because it will surely bring you some rewards (though it may) but rather it will give you more positive feelings or healthier outlook in your life which will result in good health. It is a used up cliché but when you smile the world will smile back at you. In fact, the how the world is perceived by you is only a reflection of yourself.
Laughing will give you not only a better mental health but also a positive effect on your body. There is a group of doctors who believe laughing can cure cancer and there are many clinics that offer this alternative cancer treatment. Look at the following site and read about laughter therapy by Cancer Treatment Centers of America: http://ww2.cancercenter.com/treatments/laughter-therapy/?source=ROOGLORG&org=true
Even if you are not suffering from cancer you can get the health benefit from your own laughing therapy by renting a comedy DVD for your weekend entertainment. Try to have a meeting with your friend who is funny so you can laugh more instead of staying home and being bored.
One thing I can tell you is that we Asian believe in the holistic approach to our body. I am sure you understand this as I assume the readers are karate practitioners. We train karate not only for our physical health or improvement but also for our mental and spiritual health and improvement. Therefore, by having positing thinking, smiling and laughing more we will not only improve our mental health but it will surely have the benefit to our physical health.
#3 Body and physical exercise:
I am aware that training karate five or even three times per week is difficult for many readers. The challenge is the same with the idea of going to a gym or a YMCA facility to exercise or swim every day. So, I am advising you two things you can do daily without a membership at a health club.
Most of us drive or ride a car daily. When you park your car in a parking lot, do you not look for a space that is closest to the store or an entrance? Do you drive even if a store or your destination is closer than a mile (1.6 km)? It is recommended by many doctors that we should walk 10,000 steps daily. Take a look at this site and learn more about the benefits of walking, The Walking Site: http://www.thewalkingsite.com/10000steps.html
I recommend that you will walk to a store rather than driving your car so that you will be walking more. If it is too far then use a public transportation so that you will walk to a bus stop or a train station. Strong legs or the foundation is one of three Asai karate requirements (namely flexibility, balance and foundation) but it is also necessary to have a healthy life style.
Look at a baby and you are amazed of its flexibility. As we get old we become less flexible. I heard the slang for adead body is “stiff”. To avoid being stiff too soon I recommend that you spend only 5 minutes of your time right after you get up in an easy flexibility exercise. There are many, in fact a few hundreds, joints in our body and hip joints is typically emphasized as important in karate. A practitioner who can kick high is admired. There is more important group of joints than the hip joints for the health. It is a group of back joints or the spines. I will not go into the details of the exercises I do. I only tell you three easy exercise that are good for the starters. One is to bend your upper body forward and backward. The other one is to bend sideways. The last one is to rotate your upper body while you stand (or sit) in a fixed stance (shizen tai is OK). Do those exercises one to two minutes each. That will be a great way in the morning to start a day.
Everyone must sleep and this is another important physical function and activity. This is also a complex subject and I can go into the improvement ideas on how well you sleep but I will save it for the longer version of this article. In fact, it is difficult some times to control your sleep so today I will give you two ideas that you can exercise to improve your health.
All of us have only 24 hours a day and many of us daily spend more than 8 hours, one third of our day (lives) sleeping. Do you know that the sleep cycle comes every 90 minutes? So by using this cycle you can shorten your sleep and attain a more efficient way to sleep. For instance, the five cycles of 90 minutes gives you a sleep of 7.5 hours. If you feel you need 8 hours of sleep then try to set the alarm clock at the time you will have 7.5 hours of sleep instead of 8 hours. If you get used to sleep only 7.5 hours, I suggest you try for 6 hours. The sleep amount is totally up to what you are used to and it can be changed. I can operate normally with a daily sleep of between 4.5 hours and 6 hours. When I am not busy then I sleep 6 hours and I will cut down 90 minutes off my sleep when I have some urgent matters or when I am in a different time zone. We all have only 24 hours a day so why not gain some time by staying awake (your active life) a little longer? What you need to do is to sleep soundly. The quality of your sleep is far more important than the pure quantity.
If you cannot reduce your sleep time, you can try this. Be sure to fall asleep before midnight. Between midnight and 2am is the time when we have the deepest sleep and it will make a big difference when you wake up. It is also good for your health to have a steady schedule to go to bed and wake up. Our body is controlled by Circadian Rhythm whether you like it or not. Most of the people with the odd shifts like a doctor, policemen, pilots and stewardesses tend to experience physical malfunctions. Take a look at Wiki on this subject and learn about it if you do not know: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circadian_rhythm
One of the most important factors to keep you healthy is diet and this is also a very controversial subject. You already know that you need to eat right, etc. If I write what is the correct diet then this article can be very lengthy so I will write a separate article on this important subject. Today I will list four suggestions that you can easily do.
I suggest eating less than what your body wants. In Japan we have a popular saying, Hara hachibunme. This means 80 percent of the stomach and our ancestors were advising us to eat somewhat less than what you think you want to eat. My diet consists of yorgurt in the morning, some rice for lunch and a bowl of soup or a dish of salad. I am not a vegetarian but I eat very little meat and I do not need it. Though I am Japanese I do not like fish so I have a little desire to go to a sushi restaurant. I have a funny story about a sushi restaurant but I will save it for the long version of this article.
One thing that will help you while you are trying to eat less. By chewing your food more you will take more time to eat your meal and you will feel more satisfied with what you eat even with less amount. It takes some time before the signal from the digestive system reaches to your brain. If you eat quickly then you will always eat too much as your brain does not get a “stop” or satisfied signal. In addition, well chewed food will digest faster and better which is good for your health. How many times should you chew? It depends on the food but minimum 50 times per your mouthful. If you swallow before 10 to 20 times you are eating too fast.
Reduce microwave oven use
Our life is busy and I know a microwave oven is a useful kitchen tool. However, if you study how it cooks the food you will understand why I suggest you to reduce the use of this machine. If you need to defrost something frozen then take it out one or two hours before cooking. If you want to heat up your cold soup do not be lazy and use a microwave oven. It take a little more time but your soup will retain the important nutrients if you heat it up with a regular range.
Drink good water
Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water.
So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? According to Mayo Clinic, the Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. For further information access the following URL: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283
I am sure you already know that you should drink sufficient amount of water as advised above. I want to add that the water you drink must be both clean and good. As I suggested earlier, do not use a microwave oven to heat up the water for a cup of tea or coffee you drink. I will include more details about this subject of water in the longer version of this article.
More than 2 thirds of all American people are either overweight or obese. I consider it as an epidemic and will touch this subject slightly in the final part.
OK here are the last two tips and these are much more difficult to control or exercise. For most readers Tip #6 is not an issue, I hope. If it is then it will require much more time and commitment but for your health benefit I hope you will consider. I know Tip #7 will apply to many practitioners because I visit many dojos around the world and have seen both the practitioners and the instructors. OK let’s start with #6.
#6 Smoking and alcohol
I do not have to waste our time to debate on the ill effect of cigarette smoking. Everyone knows including cigarette manufacturers that smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. It causes many diseases and reduces the health of the smokers.
US government office of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphatically states “Smoking causes death”. If you are interested in learning the details of its ill effects to your health read here:
Most of the karate practitioners especially the instructors I know are non-smokers. But I have met some practitioners who were addicted. I want to use this article to suggest that they will stop smoking. If you are an instructor I would like for you to think of the poor image you are projecting to your students through your daily action. Unfortunately in the past, many Japanese sensei have demonstrated this bad habit. Sadly my sensei in Japan, Master Sugano also had this unhealthy habit which surely shortened his life. He was in his early 70’s when he passed. He had a few heart attacks and his doctors warned him but he did not stop smoking and drinking. As it is an addiction we all know that it is hard to kick but there are many methods including the drugs and acupuncture to help you to do it. It can be done if you are serious and decide to kick this addiction. What it takes is a commitment and I hope you will make that important commitment today if you are a smoker.
Alcohol drinking is not as harmful as smoking but large consumption could result in many diseases. My suggestion is to minimize your alcohol intake and keep your brain safe and stay healthy.
There is a myth that drinking alcohol kills brain cells. The medical research determined that it does not kill brain cells, however, it can damage them. Here is an article published on July 9, 2012 in News Medical which describes further:
According to a recent article in Scientific American Mind, drinking alcohol does not kill brain cells although it can damage them. Specifically, it can damage the dendrites of neurons. Dendrites are specialized protrusions of neurons which bring information into the cell body. Thus, damaging the dendrites can cause problems in the relaying of information between brain cells. This damage particularly occurs in the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain concerned with learning and motor coordination.
According to Dr Petney, however, this damage is not permanent; yet it can cause changes in neuronal structure. Dr Petney also stresses that losing entire brain cells isn’t necessary to disrupt brain function. In fact, brain cell damage will also have a disrupting effect.
So, perhaps the question we should really be asking is not does alcohol kill brain cells, but what damage does drinking alcohol do to the brain?
Here is a link to read the entire article in News Medical:
To learn more about the ill effects of alcoholism read Alcohol Alert from National Institute: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm
#7 Body weight
Healthy body weight
This is another controversial topic but we must not ignore this subject it is a global epidemic. According to the 2012 report by FRAC (Food Research and Action Center), two thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. This means more than 66% of the adults in this country are facing health problem. For the full reading of this report go to the following site: http://frac.org/initiatives/hunger-and-obesity/obesity-in-the-us/
I brought this as the last tip because it takes much longer time and a lasting commitment. Here is a chart provided by Herbalife that shows the recommended weight in relationship to your height. Body Mass Index (BMI) is the standard measurement of choice for many health professionals (chart right). BMI is based on a weight to height ratio. Take a look and see if you fit in the correct weight range. The chart is a guideline, of course, as each one of us are different in our built and ages. If you are way off from the numbers shown in the chart then I am sure your doctor will advise you to lose weight so that you can avoid the negative implication you may face from over-weightiness.
Let me give you my current statistics at the age of 71. My height is 5 foot 7 inches or 170 cm, The body weight is between 70 and 74 kg or 155 and 163 lb with my waist size at 30 inches or 76 cm. I feel best when I am around 72 kg or 160 lb. According to the chart on the right, I am at the border line of healthy and overweight. With the consideration to my age, I think I am within the healthy region of BMI.
I have written an article in the past about the subject of over weightiness among the karate practitioners. I did not mean to disrespect them but my article upset many karateka particularly the senior instructors. This, I considered, was the proof that overweight problem is so pervasive that some people truly believed they were healthy even with a pot belly on them. My stance for an instructor of karatedo is that we have an obligation to be a model by how we behave and that we stay in shape. By staying in shape the instructors can continue to perform the karate techniques. The instructors are not truly qualified unless they can correctly demonstrate all the karate techniques even if they claim that they know how to teach them.
Keep the weight steady
If you are in the proper weight range or successful in coming down to the range (congratulations), there is one more thing you need to do. Finally, your ultimate task is to keep it steady not only for a few years but for the rest of your life.
The figures I shared earlier about my height and weight have been very steady and not changed over last 40 years. It definitely takes a commitment of long time to achieve this but I consider it well worth my effort.
You must ask yourself, how serious are you with your wish to improve your health and find yourself healthy when you are in your seventies and eighties? Master Funakoshi wrote the following as one of Nijukun: Karate is a lifelong pursuit. If you made your decision to pursue karatedo then why not try to be healthy for the rest of your life?