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YouTube Lecture: How to plan an active life

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[youtube link=”https://youtu.be/wvnN6qWv-mI” width=”590″ height=”315″]

 

Below are the transcript of the video

Hi This is Victor Cheng. I am here to share some insight of Traditional Chinese Medicine on how to live a healthy lifestyle.

If you are interested in these kind of topics. Please like and subscribe to my channel.

It will be based on a lecture series I gave at El Camino Hospital in the City of Mountain View.

The lecture series originated from common questions asked by my patients. Patients often ask me: “What should I do?” “What should I eat?” “What do I have to do to be healthy or stay healthy?”

I group these questions by topics and will go deeper into each topic in each lecture. We will cover Diet, Exercise, Posture and Breathing. These topics are the most practical. And if you take my advice on them, you will notice improvement very quickly.

The basis of our discussion will be Traditional Chinese Medicine, which are really timeless wisdoms. As you can imagine, since ancient times, people must be asking the same questions to Their physician at the time.

As great as Traditional Chinese Medicine is, we will be supplementing our discussion with modern knowledge. Over the last one hundred years or so, human knowledge has expanded tremendously. The addition of these new insights will add new depth and clarity to the understandings of these topics.

Our goal in this lecture is to help you elevate your life to another level.

After this lecture, you should know how to raise you energy level.

how to exercise and maintain an active life

Equally important, you will learn to prevent injuries and you will learn to prevent burn-outs.

So why do we need to plan for an active life. Why don’t we just go out exercise and be vibrantly healthy? What is there to plan about?

The subtitle of this lecture is combine strenuous and ease, the two component of active life planning. By strategically combine these two components, we aim to gain the benefit of active life without the shortfall of injuries and burnouts. But before we go into the planning stage, we must first understand these two concepts.

The concepts of strenuous and ease probably originated thousands of years ago. It is best described in the literature of Sun Simiao. Sun Simiao is a physician in the early Tang Dynasty, around 600 AD.

In one of the articles he written, called “Dao Lin Yang Xin”, loosely translated as “Nurturing yourself in the Way”, It refers to practicing Taoism. Longevity and Health is considered attributes of sage. Therefore healthy lifestyle is an essential practice of Taoism.

In Taoism, the highest accolade you can give someone is calling him or her True Man. Because Taoist believes that only when you perfected yourself and reached your full potentials, you are a True Human Being.

So Sun Simiao is a True Man and he says,” if you take herbal medicine regularly but do not know the ways to nurture yourself, it is still difficult to reach longevity. The path to nurture yourself is to do strenuous activities regularly but do not exhaust yourself and overreach your ability. The water that flows do not rot, the door axis never grows worms because it is in motion…”

So according to the venerable Sun Simiao, the key points are:
Medicine, or any herbal or nutritional supplements cannot make you healthy. You need them when you are sick but, in to be healthy, you must practice. You are on your own.
The foremost component of healthy lifestyle is to be active. That means staying in motion.
The activities must be strenuous and done regularly. Hence, the term Strenuous
Equally important is to avoid exhaustion. Hence, the term Ease.

But this begets more questions. In theory, it seems to be common sense. However, in practice, it seems inoperable. What would be considered strenuous? Is it walking a mile? jogging five miles? What would be considered ease? laying on the couch? strolling in the backyard? Why is staying in motion so critical?

The classical theory offered by Sun Simiao only explains the benefit of staying in motion. Like he said, the water that flows do no rot and the door axis never grows worms. We can easily observe this in nature. Things that are alive tend to move around. And motionlessness tends to indicate death and decay.

It exemplifies that often, the flow is more important than the quantity. For example, you can have a lot of assets, but if you are short on cashflow, you can go bankrupt even though you have plenty of wealth. Having the right resource at the right place and right time is much better than having excessive resource at the wrong place or wrong time. Imagine someone with a heart attack. He has blood in his body but just not in certain part of his heart muscle.

The classical theory helps explain that we need to be active and keep in motion. But it does not tell us how to plan an active life. How do we engage in strenuous activities regularly but avoid exhaustions if we don’t even know how to define it.

Therefore, I supplement the traditional understanding with modern theories. According to modern biology, we are not just flow of energy but organism, That is organized. Inanimate objects such as a piece of rock will eventually disintegrate in natural environment. But organisms can respond and interact, survive and reproduce. As organism, we will respond and take actions to changes. In its most simple form, it boils down to Stimulus and Response.

Stimulus Response reaction is the fundamental mechanism behind the phenomenon of being alive. Our body constantly interact with surrounds. Changes in environment are stimulus and the body respond accordingly. Whenever a stimulus is strong enough to threaten our survival, it creates a stress in our body. Instinctively, the body will try to survive by adapting to the new situation.

It will eventually recover from the stress. To prepare itself for potential future threats, the body may even overcompensate, that is, the body becomes stronger and build up reserve for possible future threats.

When we do strenuous physical activities, the body takes them as threatening stimuli. In response to the stress, the body attempts to become stronger.

So if strenuous activities will stimulate the body to become stronger. Then why do we need to plan? Why do we need to avoid exhaustion?

The answer is that compensation is not guaranteed! Our body can become stronger by taking on some stress. However, our body can also become weaker if we are overwhelmed by stress. When stress accumulates beyond the body’s capability to recover, the body is injured instead of becoming stronger.

Have you seen photos of people released from forced labor camps? Do they look healthy? Despite forced intense physical activity, they do not become healthier. Instead the physical activities wear them out.

So the outcome of becoming stronger is not guaranteed. There are many possibilities. Fitness level increase is a result of taking on strenuous activities AND strategic planning. Without proper planning, you will never become stronger and healthier. In most situation, the physical fitness remain stable. Worst, in many cases, you may end up weaker and less healthy.

So the most important thing is to recover. The ability to recover will determine your plan and your outcome. Your ability to recover depends on several factors: Age, Sex, Sleep, Nutrition, Mental states, etc. That’s why active life will make you healthy and healthy habits will support your activities.

High recover ability means more frequent training, more intense training and consequently faster improvement.

Here I am using Iron Palm, a traditional martial art as example. Most likely you have seen martial artist breaking wooden boards or bricks with their bare hands. If you attempt to do it without training, you are most likely to break your hands. But if you train yourself by gradually hitting harder and harder objects, your hand will adapt to the activity. Your hand will become stronger and stronger. Eventually your hand will become strong enough to break something you never thought possible.

To keep up with such intense training, traditional martial artists maintain very regimented lifestyle. They keep their health at a peak level so their recovery ability is high. Traditionally, many martial artists also learn Traditional Chinese Medicine and use herbal medicine internally and externally to help with recovery.

Now that we know planning is essential to increase fitness and health improvement, we are going to examine ways to plan an active lifestyle. We are gong to assume the subject live a healthy lifestyle and recover ability is stable. We will discuss factors of healthy lifestyle in later lectures so we can focus now on planning of activities.

The goal is to stimulate the body enough so it recognizes the need to adapt. But the stimulus and accumulated fatigue must not be overwhelming to cause injuries or exhaustion which is difficult to recover. To accomplish this balancing act, we must carefully and constantly adjust the intensity of the stimulus, the frequency of the stimulus and the variation of the stimulus.

For example, you may run a 1 mile day or 5 miles a day. That is an adjustment of intensity.

You may squat 10 reps, 1 day a week or 5 days a week. That is an adjustment of frequency.

You may lift weights one week and swim one week. That is an adjustment of variation.

By making these dynamic adjustments, you allow recovery to happen when you need it and prevent fatigue from building-up.

For example, suppose you are running 3 miles a day. Soon afterwards, your body is adapted to this level of training and improvement stalled. You may adjust intensity to do 5 miles one day as strenuous and 2 miles the following day as ease. That way your are stimulated to continue improvement but do not accumulate fatigue excessively.

You may be a weight lifter that train upper body and lower body on alternate days, but you reserve one day for jogging. That way your body is stimulated by the change of activity but does feel as tired due to the low intensity.

By adjusting these factors, your body cycles through strenuous and ease. Your body is stimulated to remain strong, your body is regularly in motion but never exhausted.

In my experience of interacting with patients, most people are doing the opposite of what we have discussed. First of all, mass majority of people are under-active. Most people are going to see significant health improvement just doing ANY mild exercise frequently. Even if it is just some stretching.

Another misconception is confusing busy-ness as active. Some people will say, “I work and have three kids. Everyday I am busy doing all kind of chores. Surely I must be active.” Based on our discussion, you should know by now that, if it is your normal regular activities, it is not stimulating. Therefore these activities do not trigger your body to continue to improve.

For the minority of people who are committed to physical activities. Most do not plan. They either do the same exercise routine day in and day out, or they do it at whim, doing whatever they feel like.

Very commonly, people have what I called 5-minutes syndrome. They get very excited for the first few days. Then they lost motivation to continue.

Some people may continue but do not understand that they need to be consistent AND dynamic. They don’t know they need to add variations so the body is stimulated without being overwhelmed by intensity. They don’t know that resting or low-intensity days are just as important.

For example, someone made a new year resolution to jog. First week, the person jog one mile everyday and feels very good about themselves. They feel like they have more energy and can do more. The second week they decided to do two miles everyday. Because the person simply increase intensity without planning, fatigue build up very quickly. Suddenly they start feeling worse than before. Soon the person becomes confused and discouraged. They wonder if they are on the right path or they have the right genes.

Therefore, if you suffers from low energy and would like to begin transforming yourself, I encourage you to start small but be consistent. Don’t attempt to ramp up your activities too fast. Make sure that your body has adapted to the current intensity before you increase it. That way fatigue will not build up too fast to overwhelm you. Keep in mind that consistency is much more important in the long-run. You want to stay focus on your goals but also flexible to dynamically adjust according to real-life situations.

So now this lecture covered the topic of active lifestyle. We know that to be healthy, we must be active. To elevate our overall health, we must stimulate our body consistently with proper planning. We learned to combine strenuous and ease in our planning. Doing so will stimulate your body to remain strong and healthy without falling into injuries and exhaustion.

In future lectures, we will go over remaining of Sun Simiao’s Nurturing Yourself in the Way. One lecture will be dedicated to the discuss of breathing. Everyone breaths but many do it incorrectly. Proper breathing will help you attain more energy and better mood. It is the gateway to your mind and body.

We may also cover meditations. Done correctly, meditation is a spiritual practice that has tremendous health benefits. It is a very big topics so it may become its own lecture series.

The topic of voice therapy is highly related to breathing. Basically they use the same organs and muscles. So we will discuss them jointly.

Diet is also another big subject that deserves its own lecture series. We live in a very different time than Sun Simiao. Our problems, the spectrum of illnesses, are very different than Tang Dynasty China.

In my opinion, diet is one of the biggest problem in modern day America. I believe if Sun Simiao is alive today, he would spend the majority of his energy on the discussion of food and nutrition.

Thank you for listening to this lecture. I hope you have learned something useful. I look forward to share more wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine with you in the future. Please like and subscribe to my channel to see more. Bye.



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