Of course, if it was as simple as just changing your dietary habits and – lo presto – you are in good health, we wouldn’t be having this talk now, would we? There is more to good health than what you put inside your mouth. It also what you put out: exercise. Now, I don’t really like to use the word ‘exercise’, since it always makes me think that it is something that you don’t know how to do by nature. And that is so not true. Moving is in our nature. In the past we wouldn’t have lived long if we hadn’t moved… a lot. We would have starved to death or be ripped to shreds by the first big predator to cross our path. One of our most dominant neurochemical processes is all about movement, the dopaminergic system. We thrive when we move. Our immune system is calmed down. Our serotonin (the feel good hormone) levels are boosted. In fact, most of our hormones work at their optimum when we are fit. Our metabolism is optimised. There can be no health if you do not move regularly.
So how come it is so hard for many to keep on moving? The answer can be found in our genetic programming.
It is all about energy
In life it is ultimately all about energy. Without energy there is no life. So many of our systems are therefore wired to work as efficiently as possible. Waste not, want not. It is therefore also in our nature to not move if we do not feel the urge. If we aren’t egged on by our neurotransmitters. That way we save energy that we might have need later on. In daily life, we are moved if our dopaminergic system tells us to move, which it does for several reasons, for instance when we are hungry or thirsty or plain curious about what is on the other side of that high hill. That last reason to move we do not all feel the urge to. Some people are more dopaminergically wired than others. These others are more influenced by serotonin. These are rather intricate neurochemical processes so I just want to leave it at that for the moment. It will definitely be discussed later on, as dopamine and serotonin have large roles to play in our lives.
So, some are more driven by dopamine and others by serotonin. The dopamine driven people are more prone to move than their serotonin driven fellow human beings. The latter will stay put as much as possible, moving only when necessary. Which isn’t often, because nowadays, the food is in the fridge which is steps away, while we hunt in the supermarket to which we can transport ourselves by car. Of course, there are many shades of grey between dopamine and serotonin driven. That’s why you get so many different preferences in humans when it comes to being active. But to make it more complicated there are more factors that have a role to play.
Turn it off to turn your health back on
Some bodily systems are so vital to our survival, literally, that they can claim practically all of our energy and turn our urge to move down low, so we won’t ‘waste’ any resources. The immune system can do all that. When your immune system gets turned on chronically, it will turn your other functions down a notch (or two or three…). It influences your thyroid gland in order to slow your metabolism down and when that happens you will get a non permissive brain. That is exactly what is says it is: your brain doesn’t give you permission to move any more. In fact, it doesn’t give you permission to effect other things either. Change, for instance. Making changes demands energy and that is a no go with a chronically active immune system. Everything you try to change in your lifestyle fails when you have a non permissive brain. Sound familiar? That is because many people are suffering from it. It is a bit of a catch 22. You need to change your lifestyle but your body won’t let you.
Understanding how it works will get you a long way
Fortunately, it is possible. Breaking the patterns is what it takes. Understanding why it is difficult to make changes will enable you to tackle it in the right way. When you have a none permissive brain it is not a good idea to get yourself signed up at the local gym. Unless you have a personal trainer who understands your situation and will make sure you’ll get yourself over there, you won’t go. You will have to set yourself up for success. So rather than having to go out somewhere and start exercising full on, you want to start small or you won’t last long. For instance, do some push ups, starting with your hands on your mattress instead of on the floor. Or do a sprint just outside your house. Or make movement meaningful by, for instance, taking up some gardening. These are low threshold exercises that you can do anytime and anywhere. They might seem like small successes but they are successes and will be a great starting point for bigger challenges. Taking it one step at a time and making sure you have a support system that understands why it is difficult for you to take your life back is what will get you to break the circle.
One of the things I am working on at the moment is realising an place where people can come and stay with us for a while and be taken by the hand in effecting change. In this manner I want to help people who lack the energy to change their lifestyle, giving them the support and facilitating the surroundings they need to start the change. Often all people need to break through the circle that they are moving around in is someone to take over for a while and tell them what to do. Realising you can’t do it yourself isn’t weakness, it is strength, the strength to ask for help. Once the cycle has been broken the energy will come flowing back and you are be able to retake the reins. Won’t that be great? I sure think it would.
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