The Healthy Lifestyle Myth

Thoughtless lifestyle destroys us every day. We fall victims to information technology and loose connection to our true selves. I wish readers would stop and think about their own attitude towards living a healthy lifestyle. This concept is formed through a number of products presented in the form of gymnastics, fitness, eating habits, different types of yoga and sports. Yet does it really help us preserve our health? Or is healthy lifestyle a kind of a very lucrative PR product?

The analysis presented in this article and the definitions put forward by its author belong to the sphere of philosophy and cognition and would probably not resonate with the athletes and their fans. However, this text might prove beneficial for them too.

Physical culture?

My own experience and thoughtless participation in the ‘race towards recovery’ lead to a single regrettable conclusion: it turned out I had lost more health than I had gained. Unfortunately, in physical education classes we were taught something that could hardly be referred to as ‘culture’. Why? Because PE teachers are, in the best case scenario, unsuccessful athletes or retired athletes simply doing their time. Yet at the same time they are the ones responsible for the health of everyone at school.

It’s a well-known fact that the school period is when human physique is shaped. This is when kid’s muscles gain strength; it’s the time for creating suitable conditions for a symmetrical bodily development, or the prerequisites for an asymmetrical development, which has dreadful consequences for the entire organism. During this period, children either develop an internal bodily fulcrum, which they need for their normal blood circulation and breathing, or they lose it, either partially or entirely, and sometimes forever.

The school period is when a child’s skeleton is formed, and the skeleton provides support not only for one’s bodily movements but also for one’s psychological stability. Skeleton problems might be the result of a wide variety of factors, such as, for example, the wrong type of exercise or total lack of exercise, or even the wrong sitting position in class. The lack of a genuine awareness of the spine, an actual sensation in the child, leads to the inability to gain control over the development of the locomotor system as a whole. In this case the child, in fact, cerates the opportunity for an altered, a mutated development, since it continues living in this internal environment, which has been established during the school years. The child’s body specifies the algorithm for its future physical, energetical and mental diseases and then years later the person is absolutely unrecognizable. Watching people on the streets I can clearly see the problems they have with their locomotive system – curvature of the spine, poor leg mobility, locked knees, tension in the hips, etc. Asymmetrical and in a certain sense ‘mutated’ people are everywhere around us and they don’t even suspect the degree of their deviation from the norm.

People often don’t even understand that the diseases of their body are associated with their loss of the axis. This loss is caused by the underdevelopment or overdevelopment of the locomotive system, or the muscles. Searching for a solution to this problem in gymnastics, fitness or sport, when associated with an asymmetrical distribution of the efforts in the skeleton and the muscles, is nothing more than just an aerobic exercise for the body. This exercise simply increases the blood circulation and develops the already overdeveloped parts of the body (the thing is that the already established form of the body is based on already fixed conditions, so instead of changing one’s skeleton and relaxing the already large muscles or building the underdeveloped muscles, one actually creates within the body conditions for an even greater loss of symmetry).

The locomotor apparatus is the basis of the body. If the child does not learn during the very first years at school to move in the right rhythm, activating the whole body, and not its separate parts, then its body is predisposed to establishing shallow breathing, which leads to blocking the pulmonary aperture. The breathing then loses its natural characteristics and deep breathing is lost, which also leads to a change in the rhythm of the heart. If the child wears the wrong shoes (if the arch support is too rigid or the sole is too soft and does not provide reliable support to the foot), this also leads to a disruption in the proper development of its skeleton. And the improper development of the skeleton leads to a loss of balance, which results in an asymmetric arrangement of the organs in the body, they start looking for a convenient location. This causes conditions like lowering of the kidneys, shifting of the liver, weakening of the heart, increasing of the lungs, and so on.

The reader might think here ‘I don’t need all these horror stories’, yet the facts are really horrifying. Let’s try and understand the principles of the healthy lifestyle from the point of view of physical education.

Human skeletal-muscle apparatus is a very fine instrument and we should know how to tune it, restore it and above all relax it. However ‘relaxing’ does not mean shaking the particular body part, relaxing is in fact making a specific internal effort that fills our muscles and bones with energy. If we don’t learn how to do this properly, the straining of our muscles and skeleton translates into neurosis and emotional excesses. With our sedentary lifestyle great static straining leads to the inability to control and listen to the body. Therefore it is extremely important that we teach our child to relax properly.

Motion exercises are, of course, necessary though not as a defence against static straining, but in addition to it. First of all we must learn to work properly with static exercises because they are very important for strengthening the skeleton. Motion exercises do not strengthen the skeleton, they simply support it. What is more, with motion exercises we find it harder to focus and control our movements, therefore soon enough they become ‘bad’ and unconscious. In these cases children, for example, start to scream so as to express an emotion that relieves their internal tension. However this is no physical education, it’s an unconscious therapy dealing with one’s mental repression. What is worse is that in this case the development of the muscles and the locomotive apparatus is out of the control of both the students and the teachers. In fact, all that is referred to as ‘physical education’ does not live up to its name. Today physical education can be used, in the best case scenario, simply as a psychological relief.

If the desire for achieving a healthy lifestyle transforms into a slogan competition and is no longer understood, the consequences might be really terrible. Every child’s lifestyle should take into account first of all the specific characteristics of this child. What good is it to chain the child to the desk for 10-14 hours a day if his concentration span is no more than 30 minutes per hour? Overburdening children at school can in fact ruin their health. I don’t believe there’s a single healthy excellent student in elementary school. And try to imagine what he will look like when he’s 15! Involving children in various activities, forcing them to do things without actually understanding how, motivating them with the help of games and emotional experiences – all this has nothing to do with science. However, no student really learns what muscles are, how they work and what they can lead to if properly developed. Therefore, upon entering college, young people finally establish either their health or the disrupted functioning of their locomotive, nervous and digestive systems. And these are the three basic systems that physical education should support.

I believe that education should not simply be changed; it needs to be torn down and built anew. However these new smarter educational programs and the overall management should be done by professionals, who are actually healthy and smart, and not simply well-informed, or else positive change will not happen.

What can we advise the parents? They should direct their children to these sports and activities that are based upon rhythm, such as ballroom or preferably folklore dances, martial arts like Capoeira (which is based on rhythm), and the twelve-exercise competition.

What are the benefits of physical education? First of all, physical education is a discipline of the actions, second – it helps us learn about the structure and development of the body and this acquired knowledge actually transforms physical exercises into a ‘culture’. And, finally, sport activities leave no time for idleness and bad habits.

Physical culture today is a science about the absence of culture in physical training. It is extremely subjective and based on personal emotional and physical desires. Since the time of its prosperity in ancient Greece, physical culture has become a sort of personal subculture, in which every single perosn can find a natural realization of his need for movement and exercise. However, all this remains beyond the knowledge and culture of the development of the body as such.

Fitness

I admit that all these years, I was mistaken in the belief that high physical activity can help.
Kenneth Cooper, founder of aerobics

What is fitness? Even the fans of this trend do not know. Come join if you want to be famous, transcendental, in other words not quite understood. The invasion of television in our lives created the opportunity for the creation of a vision of the healthy lifestyle, which creates in the viewer the desire to fit in this image – and this is in fact the true goal of consumer industry. Fitness is one of the products of this industry.

The fitness consumer does not necessarily understand that strong muscles don’t guarantee good health, be it physical or mental, because taking care of people’s health is not among the goals of fitness. Fashionable ideas come and go incredibly often in fitness: once a certain concept has been exploited, another one takes its place. And the industry works by directing people to the gyms. One of these general ideas is the idea of the prestigiousness of those who use the services of fitness – these consumers are persuaded they are the chosen ones –because they visit ‘special places’ for ‘special money’. However the result of this service is predetermined because, excuse me, but fitness and the healthy lifestyle are two concepts incompatible by definition. Fitness creates a false image of the world of healthy lifestyle and is nothing more than a simple tool for entertainment, which – of course – is not bad in itself. But then shouldn’t fitness be transferred to some special area like, for example, Las Vegas, so that people can go there with the specific goal of investing their energy in the emotion?

In the 1980s when Americans realized that fitness can be rather lucrative, they created an industry that could build exercise specialists for only three months. The ones who typically joined their ranks were people who had no desire to participate in a long yet consistent and effective process of training, or those who had not found realization in a particular sport, etc.

Today fitness attracts Olympic champions because the industry can offer them the income they find appropriate for their Olympic, i.e. celestial status. What can an Olympic champion teach you? His primary good quality is his spirit, which he has been developing all his life! Yet fitness does not develop the spirit, a rather vague concept.

Fitness is to a large degree a contemporary drama where people develop an unattainable dream. Building one’s body and being healthy is a skill that cannot be acquired even if you have access to the most sophisticated training equipment. Who says that inflated muscles are healthy? Muscles can be really healthy if they are linked with each other and connected with the energy meridians of the body, and if they have the necessary symmetry. The ironware and treadmill enthusiasts are victims of muscular efforts. The absence of the effort of analytical thought performs an emotional experiment with the sexual syndrome of the treaders and muscle inflators. By the way, being a universal legacy and a universal property, the sexual syndrome does not always lead to tragedy and drama. If you don’t get lost in the sands of subculture you might find real satisfaction in even simple pleasures.

Why is this mass industry so attractive for the consumer? Because it skillfully exploits the idea of physical culture, which physical culture itself did not manage to draw on. Fitness offers you to ‘be in shape’. The question is what kind of shape is that if fitness does not relieve stress but simply conceals it. At the time of physical exercise the body burns energy and this creates the false sensation that exercises make you feel lighter and relieved.

Here are the basic problems that fitness practitioners face:

  • Wearing out of the knee as a result of the inability to properly allocate the stress on the legs in the proper rhythm;
  • Lack of coordination in the movements due to negligent, non-coordinated execution of the exercise;
  • Violation of the symmetry in the development of the muscles as a result of rapid lifting and lowering, the wrong bending and extending of the body;
  • Blocking of the physical development due to lack of understanding of the differences in the physical structure of men and women;
  • Hyperextension of the tendons due to improper straining when stretching, lack of understanding of how different seasons affect the physical and energy activity of the body, as well as lack of understanding of the activity of the lunar month (stretching is not always good, for example, you should not stretch during new moon, because this leads to energy shortage);
  • Increasing the stress on the heart in an attempt to realize the idea of ​​losing weight and bringing oneself into compliance with the advertised standards;
  • Disrupting the locomotive system and the bones of the skeleton as a result of the use of improper footwear;
  • Energy imbalance of the body as a result of the inability to properly combine physical activities.

Contemporary fitness discredits the depth and knowledge of the original arts such as dance, yoga, martial arts (for example Taiji quan) and offers a surrogate of various exercises. As a result people form a false perception of the serious practices and they might never attain an informal perception of them. Generally, authentic knowledge and practice can be taught only by people who have participated in the process of attaining knowledge for no less than 5-7 years, whereas the period for training a fitness instructor is simply a couple of months.

What is more, the business circumstances force the instructor to attract more and more visitors to the gym, his time is limited and he cannot work with a constant group. And if someone is not serious about his training or even disturbs the others in the group, the instructor cannot chase him out; he doesn’t have the right to do it. Such a practice that lacks internal discipline and at the same time calls itself ‘practice’ is much more dangerous than simple aerobics.

Popular fitness trends

Dance aerobics. Destroys all sense of rhythm. "Jumping to the music" makes one forget who he is, and creates an unconscious strain on the cardiovascular system, after which those who have survived, say how great it was. Reduces weight and improves the figure for those who have it. A good trend for those who prefer not to think about the reason for movement. Leads to energy burning – of both harmful and necessary energy. Did not survive in its original form, and was transformed into adifferent subtrends with the prefixes "step-", "slide," "kick", etc.

Step aerobics. Serves to reinforce osteoporosis, deterioration of the knee, rupture or overstretching of the ligaments. Improves superbly the shape of those who are preparing themselves for the ascent of Everest and its victorious conquest. For those who have no time for this, the trend features overburdening and a cold shower after class.

Slide, pump aerobics. Power aerobics. Exercise in self-hypnosis that you will be strong. You will be strong, and again, you will be strong.

Kick aerobics. Special Aerobics "against such monsters as ..." the author. Can be regardedas a kind of aerobic aftertaste.

Aqua-aerobics. For the lovers of water treatment. Fun for those who are too lazy to swim or can not swim. The safest fitness pastime from the perspective of health.

Callanetics. Fun passtime of stretching and developing muscles, where the instructor studies the anatomy of the students.

Pilates. The most "advanced" set of exercises based on the safety of fitness. In other words, this is a kind of fitness product for those who "care." In the process of selecting the best from various programs, one thing remained overlooked: the creation of a superinstructor for a superprogramme requires a minimum of 10 years. In general, this trend is about a harmonious whole, which no one has ever seen. And those who teach it, are still only trying it on themselves.

Tae-bo. The kind of fitness for those who don’t know a thing about martial arts or fitness. Relieves the irritation during the time of the training, yet forms aggression for life. In order to stop the aggression, most intensive attendance is recommended – discount available. In general, this is a fast food product with additives, which further develops one’s taste for these products.

Tai Chi, Qigong. No matter how ridiculous it may seem to the true admirers of these arts, this fitness trend is considered quite promising today. In general, fitness, perhaps unknowingly, poses a serious threat to this great science, developed for centuries, as it creates in people the idea that what Tai Chi fitness offers is supposedly the taiji. Overall, this fitness trend uses the following new "joke": you take energy from somewhere and then drive it around to various places.

Meditation. In the Eastern tradition one of the main objectives of meditation is to stop consciousness. However since 70 percent of people approach fitness with an already stopped consciousness, all they need to do is get in the right sitting position, put on some the music, close their eyes for some credibility, join two fingers to the third – and "start meditating."

Hatha Yoga. This is, in fact, like yoga. But no matter how much instructors contort from powerlessness to explain that this is not yoga, but a circus, the practitioners simply cannot understand the practice. Adding this trend to its hand, fitness obtained an aura of spirituality, which, however, dissipated like the morning mist in the first rays of the sun.

Capoeira. In general, this is a new trend, which has difficulties adapting to fitness. The number of people who practice it at a high level in Russia (not in the field of fitness, but in the sphere of Afro-Brazilian art) are no more than five. However, this trend has almost triumphantly marched across the country "under the auspices of" fitness, persuading everyone that Capoeira does not need 25 years of hard training (in preparation for a master’s belt), but is rather a sort of acrobatics mixed with hand and leg strikes.

This critical analysis has been here presented by he author with a generally positive air. The source of knowledge however lies within the person; therefore transcending the boundaries of sensory experience is impossible. This is rather a sketch for those who are searching for deep knowledge in comparatively narrow and therefore unacceptable formats. With all due respect to fitness as a "consumer product", I would like to make a warning that by digging a hole for the other arts, fitness is, in fact, burying itself.

Yet, fitness has some positive aspects too. For fitness is a training technology, which may lead to development. If fitness is a kind of an initial phase in a transition to a deeper and more serious attitude to one’s development, then this technology is necessary.

"Fine processing" of the body and the mind is out of the question with fitness, if only because fitness is primarily a business undertaking created with the goal of making money, and not making people healthy. We must remember that people coming to the gym, as a rule, want to get immediate results. Here lies the main problem of the industry: that the private confusion of the consumer is superimposed on the impossibility, and often the inability of fitness to carry out even restoration and training programs.

Fitness should after all be used properly, as a base for training, and not as a practice. This could help fitness make more money than the demonstration of a comprehensive and conceptual approach to the realization of various physical and mental goals. Thos would furthermore save people from groundless expectations.

Sport-sport-sport!

Professionalism is our enemy!
Baron de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Movement

Once sport was a symbol of the incompetent passtime. Then it transfromed into a spectacle and business. The Romans used to develope the gladiators physically to destroy their mind and spirit at the expense of their muscles, making a machine of a man, enslaved by his own muscles. The Romans rightly believed that they could send this Machine in any desired direction.

Professional sport is exhausting work, which puts at stake one’s health and the time spent in self-torture for the sake of the result. Excessive physical activity cuts off the mind and transforms the person into a mindless manipulator of his own muscle mass. In fact, the overdevelopment of the body to the detriment of consciousness, is the path to mutation.

If a person starts to strain his body, this is deviation. What’s the point in running 60 meters in three seconds? It’s only one – to reach a state close to orgasm, because nothing else satisfies you or works for you. I admit that this might actually lead a few dozen people to enlightenment, however the rest remain unsatisfied. When doing sports professionally, in 70 percent of the cases people change their nature, they mutate. The life of the athlete is inevitably related to the consummation of if not altogether banned drugs, which they use to achieve results, then at least various additives that have side effects.

Most of the former athletes later lose their health, they get lost in society, and are disoriented people. We will not look into the very few who manage to preserve their identity and consciousness. Let's look at those girls and boys, who – as a result of intense training and participation in competitions – have broken down, have overstrained themselves, who have spent their time not in developing themselves but rather in running in a circle, who have built an asymmetrical body and the wrong muscles. Sport requires daily and persistent training, which drains and consumes the energy of the body. And only the strongest by nature – those who could have found realization directing their energy to the achievement of other, not necessarily athletic, results – reach the finish line.

Of course, all sports are different and they should not be treated equally. For example, game sports have a particular internal content – cooperation, the ability to play different combinations, which helps one develop a systematic approach and a responsible attitude to one’s partners. Worth mentioning here are the combinatorial types of sports. They are really magical, because they interrelate the destinies of millions of viewers. In these sports the actions of one person determine the actions of the whole team. The positive aspect of sports for children is when kids are just beginning to deal with them. For the child sports activities are often just fun, children really develop themselves while still in the "trial run." And this period is more beneficial than destructive. While discipline is being formed, the body is being built, and habit are being developed, the body is more or less in a good condition. Development is supported also by the new friendships, relationships and the communication that are also very important.

‘But what is life today without sports?’ – you will rightfully object.It’s impossible, of course. However, the approach to sports should be less deadly. Because for the sake of prestige and the business, the essence of physical development is being lost, and healthy lifestyle remains out of the question. In principle, sports are a good way to educate, they form discipline and responsibility, and cultivate the will. But without the intellectual effort, all these features are reduced to nothing. Watching the actions of the athletes in their everyday life and especially when they leave sport, we can often see that they have no "spare" professional skills and no idea where to direct the efforts they’ve developed.

According to the Russian Ministry of Sports and the Health Ministry, only 10-13 percent of professional athletes may be regarded as healthy people. The number of people in our country engaged in sports professionally is about 4 million people, more than 2.5 percent of the population, and that’s not even counting the fans! Similar is the percentage in all the developed countries. Of these, only 5-6 thousand people compete on a level where they can earn good money. In other words, directing our children to professional sports, we rob them of the opportunity to stay healthy, find moral satisfaction in their employment, and (if this sport becomes their profession) receive an adequate remuneration.

If the athlete's physical activity exceeds his mental activity, he unwittingly develops excessively the right hemisphere of his brain (which begins to receive more blood) and increases the gross consumer impulses in himself. When an athlete finishes his sports career, the feeding of these overdeveloped regions of the brain stops, which inevitably leads to the feeling of oppression, depression, increased irritability. Sports affect also the endocrine system. In women, they lead to ovary disorders, mammary glands disorders and, as a consequence, irregular menstruation, infertility, etc. In 70 percent of the women's teams, women athletes experience gynecological problems. Moreover, the constant pumping of energy weakens the kidneys, and disrupts the functioning of the adrenal glands. The athletes we see on the screen represent only a small percentage of all the athletes, they are the ones who initially had more energy than the others. Becoming a coach, these people often make their trainees pass through the same mill they have passed, without properly analysing the individual capabilities of their students and actually overseeing their development.

Sport today is also an entire industry, just like fitness, which leads not to development, but rather to the loss of health. If sport disciplines man and develops his composure, concentration and will, these are certainly its positive aspects. If it breeds self-sacrifice for the sake of results, it inevitably destroys the health.

However, due to all these obvious problems I wouldn’t want to take a definite stand. It is impossible to imagine life today without sports. However the approach to sport must obviously change. The attitude towards sport should be more sincere – sports should be perceived as hard work and should not be concealed behind all this talk of ‘healthy lifestyle’.

Healthy lifestyle is not about restoration from the permanent stress and problems, it’s about development, based on a healthy mind, a strong energy and spirit. The problem of man today is simple: he does not understand that fitness and sports can not provide real health, because the culture of human development can not be purely physical.

17 june 2008

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