Man (Part 3)
Chapter 3—The Prescription for Life: Function
We trust our journey has been profitable and enjoyable so far. We will now learn five more laws of life. By complying with them we should come through feeling and looking better.
Law of Life 5: Correct Posture
Principle. Good posture is fundamental to proper development of body structure, especially of the bones and muscles. It aids the development of vital capacity and promotes deep breathing. It also encourages the circulation of blood to and from the heart. An erect bearing not only benefits physical health, but it lifts the spirits and promotes mental alertness and the dignity of self-possession. Physical posture is often a reflection of mental attitude.
Problem. A stiff, military-like posture and a slouched or drooping posture are both unhealthful. The stiff, precise posture puts an unnatural strain on the muscles.1 A prolonged crouched or hunched position leaves the lungs with inadequate room to expand. It causes shallow breathing, reduces vital capacity and puts strain on the heart. It depresses and unbalances the circulation and contributes to headache, backache and aching neck, legs and feet. Poor posture is also associated with constipation and varicose veins. Moreover; it has an adverse psychological effect. It often accompanies feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness and depression.
Prescription. Good posture starts with the head, neck and trunk. The head should be up as if linked to a star. The neck should feel lengthened, the shoulders wider; and the upper spine of the trunk longer. Every activity should be accompanied by a sense of maximum lengthening of the spine. By concentrating on the head, neck and upper trunk, the rest of the body will tend to an erect, at-ease and balanced posture.2
Good posture is not only related to our positions while inactive, but to the positions we assume while working. Correct lifting of heavy objects, for instance, can help prevent injury and low back pain.
When lifting heavy objects, we can reduce pressure on the spinal disks by keeping the trunk as erect as possible. This involves bending the knees, putting the load on the leg muscles and keeping the weight as close to the body as possible. In this situation we should also take a deep breath and tense the abdominal muscles so that the increased pressure in the abdomen and chest will help support the rib cage and spine. This can significantly reduce the pressure on the lower back.3
The best way to develop good posture is to practice all the laws of health. Proper breathing and nutrition as well as adequate sleep will help us maintain an erect bearing. Adequate exercise will strengthen the muscles and skeleton. Ideally, we should be on our feet at least several hours a day
We should strive for good posture until it becomes a regular habit. But an erect bearing requires an attitude of adequacy and self-esteem. We should walk tall like a thoroughbred, not arrogantly, but in recognition of the value and dignity of human life.
Law of Life 6: Regular Exercise
Principle. Every part of the body is made for action. Activity tends to life, inactivity to death. Doing nothing is the nearest thing to dying. Far more people die from want of exercise than from over fatigue. Exercise does wonders for the brain, the nerves, the heart, the veins and arteries, the circulation of the blood, the digestion, and the action of the liver; kidneys and lungs. It would be difficult to sufficiently laud its many benefits.
There are three basic types of exercise: calisthenics, isometric and aerobic. Calisthenics exercise is the stretching type. It improves the posture, relaxes the body and prepares for more vigorous activity. Isometric exercise makes one muscle strain against an immovable object or against another muscle, as when clenching the fists or cupping the hands together and pulling. This builds muscle strength but does little to improve general fitness. It can increase blood pressure and should therefore be avoided by those inclined to cardiovascular problems. Aerobic exercise moves whole masses of muscles, as in walking, swimming, cycling, running and active working. This is the best type of exercise.
In vigorous aerobic exercise the circulation of the blood through the heart and lungs may increase five times, and nearly twenty times through the working muscles.4 Regular aerobic exercise has a beneficial training effect on the heart. It becomes stronger and more efficient, delivering more blood with each beat. With regular exercise the resting heart rate may be reduced from 72 to around 60 beats a minute. This saves nearly 6,000 beats a night and rests the heart as well as the body
Problem. In societies where man cultivates and gathers his own food, using his legs instead of wheels, getting regular exercise is no problem. But it is a serious problem in other societies. Many of us get neither enough exercise nor the right kind of exercise. This can contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, high blood-fat levels and a higher risk of heart disease.5 Inadequate exercise also deprives many people of an important means of dissipating stress, resisting depression and maintaining a right mental attitude.
Prescription. We should find ways of increasing our level of activity when performing the necessary duties of life. For example, we could leave our car some distance from the office and walk to work. We could take the stairs instead of the elevator. We could find excuses to stand, stretch, move, swing or climb. Going for a walk during coffee break and romping with the children when we get home would also be a good idea. We were made to move. Let's shake off the tendency to inactivity When we feel the need to exercise, we should not lie down until the feeling passes off. Let's become active and begin to live.
The simplest and safest form of exercise is walking, and it is very effective. Never begin a jogging program without first walking at least a few weeks. If you have a medical problem or are over 30, it is a wise precaution to have a thorough medical examination before undertaking a regular exercise program. An adequate exercise program will have a training effect on your heart, blood vessels and blood circulation.6
In this matter of exercise there is a close interrelation of the ten laws of life. Exercise helps us comply with the first law by encouraging correct breathing. When we exercise we tend to drink more water. Exercise also tends to moderate the appetite and helps achieve normal body weight. If performed outdoors, it provides the added benefit of sunlight. It promotes good posture, relaxation and sound, refreshing sleep. The discipline of the body in a routine of regular exercise also encourages a well-ordered lifestyle. Exercise helps expel impurities through the skin, kidneys and bowels, and is indispensable to body hygiene. Most important, exercise promotes mental vitality, learning performance and a healthy mental outlook. While exercise may seem irksome at first if we are not used to it, after a while it becomes a pleasure. When enjoyed, it does us more good.
Law of Life 7: Adequate Rest
Principle. None of us can live healthfully without adequate rest. It is essential for relaxation, recuperation, recreation and working efficiency During rest and sleep the body and mind are restored and invigorated.
Rest needs to be in the right amount and of the right kind. Adults need seven or eight hours of sleep each day Besides this, we need to break the cycle of work by laying aside the responsibilities of life for one full day each week. This practice is as old as human history There are no reasons to question its benefit. It renews and enables us to take up the challenges and stresses of daily living.
The quality of rest is just as important as the quantity We all know something about the benefits of sound, refreshing sleep.
Problem. Those who sleep five hours or less have nearly twice the death rate of people who regularly enjoy seven to eight hours of sleep.7 Sleep deprivation also impairs judgment, reduces work capacity and increases the likelihood of errors. It weakens motivation and increases the energy required to perform a given task.8
The quality of sleep is often impaired by improper breathing, poor nutrition, late suppers, lack of exercise, overwork, irregular hours for retiring and - contrary to general opinion - by sleeping pills. Excessive use of sleeping pills actually disturbs sleep and is detrimental to life and health.9 Most of all, sleep is destroyed by a wrong mental attitude. Greed, selfishness, guilt, worry, fear and hate can rob us of proper rest.
Prescription. Practicing the laws of life will help form better sleeping habits. Deep breathing and adequate fresh air promote sound sleep. Regular meals, exercise, and hard work according to our strength also encourage sleep. Solomon said, "Sweet is the sleep of the working man." Other aids to sleep include practicing moderation in everything, burying worry, guilt and negative thoughts, and living at peace with ourselves and others.
Law of Life 8: Regular and Moderate Habits
Principle. We all have a built-in biological clock or circadian rhythm. This daily rhythm is acquired very early in life and is important to the health and well-being of man. Physical and mental efficiency, alertness and skill are closely related to this biological rhythm.10
Health depends on good habits practiced with regularity and moderation. While regularity means doing things at the right time, moderation means doing things in the right amount. It means proportion, balance and the avoidance of extremes.
The daily routine of a well-ordered lifestyle poses less stress for the human organism. But even here we need moderation or life will become too regimented. Order needs a dash of variety Routine should make room for a human touch of flexibility Then discipline can be truly beautiful.
Problem. Human nature is vulnerable to irregularity Our fitful starts at self-improvement do not establish good habits. We find it easy to become addicted to harmful things and to use good things in excess. Our society is satiated with overindulgence. In the developed countries more people die from too much food than from too little. We rust out from laziness more than we wear out from exercise. Too many of us are overfed, over stimulated, overmedicated, overstressed and under disciplined. But the real problem is a wrong mental attitude. Bad habits are usually an expression of an unconscious sense of self-contempt and self-hate.
Prescription. We should practice each law of life regularly until it becomes an established habit, shunning that which is harmful, avoiding extremes and enjoying moderation in those things which are lawful. Above all, we need to cultivate a sense of self-respect and to pursue a worthwhile goal and purpose in life.
Law of Life 9: Proper Hygiene
Principle. Hygiene means to maintain ourselves and our environment in a manner which promotes health. In this we have a responsibility not only to ourselves but to others. Proper hygiene cannot be maintained merely by individual action. It demands the cooperation of every person. Each must contribute to the common good by doing his part to maintain himself and the environment in a healthful condition.
Man was made to exercise dominion over his environment, not to let it dominate him. In order to sustain life it is necessary for us to use our environment. We must develop our water resources and cultivate the soil to produce our food. Proper hygiene will not abuse the environment but will maintain it in a way that promotes health.
The practice of good hygiene means keeping ourselves and the environment clean, orderly and attractive. This makes it easier to keep the other laws of life. Cleanliness is vital if we are to have pure air; clean water; good food and adequate sunlight. It even contributes to adequate rest. Orderliness also helps insure correct eating, exercising and resting. An attractive environment in the company of attractive persons improves our attitude and imparts a general sense of health and well-being. In fact, proper mental hygiene - the maintenance of wholesome attitudes - is almost impossible if we or our surroundings are dirty, disorderly and unattractive.
Problem. While every human being knows that the world was meant to be clean, orderly and attractive, we must face the fact that it is not. Where nature has been left untouched by man, it possesses these attributes in all their loveliness. But man has befouled himself and polluted his environment. We have no one to blame but ourselves. We have sadly failed to exercise proper dominion over ourselves and over nature. We have abused and exploited our environment rather than using and maintaining it.
Pollution is a universal problem. Among some, pollution consists in the human and animal filth that is allowed to accumulate. Among others, the pollution is even more dangerous. Air; water; soil, food and sunlight have all been affected by industrial and urban waste, by heavy metals and exotic chemicals, and by invisible radiation.11
While modern hygiene and sanitation have done much to rid the earth of terrible scourges such as the Black Death, they have not changed man's insatiable urge to defile himself and his world. Man's real problem is in his mind, in his attitudes, not in his circumstances, activities and industries.
Prescription. In this matter of proper hygiene we can make some specific recommendations:
We should do our part to keep the environment we share with others as hygienic as possible.
We should locate ourselves and our families in areas that are as free as possible from pollution and congestion. The polluted air; congestion and noise of the city are not as hygienic as a good rural environment.
We should keep our premises clean, not allowing decaying animal or vegetable matter around our homes. Our environment should also be kept orderly and attractive. This will not only provide physical exercise, but a restful atmosphere that promotes right mental attitude.
Our own persons must be kept clean, orderly and attractive. The reward will be better health, a clearer; more energetic mind, and the esteem and friendship of others.
The best prescription for hygiene is compliance with the other laws of life. The body cannot be internally hygienic without pure air; clean water; good food, adequate sunlight, correct posture, exercise, rest, and regular and moderate habits. Most important of all, we should cultivate an attitude that will lead us to relate in a responsible way to our personal hygiene and to the environment around us.
1 L. E. Morehouse and L. Gross, Total Fitness in 30 Minutes a Week (New York: Pocket Books, 1975), pp.18-19.
2 See Appendix, "Healthful Posture: Standing," p.60; Personal communication from Dr. William Wilkie.
3 See Appendix, "Healthful Posture: Lifting and carrying," p.60. Those with special postural or skeletal problems should consult a physician.
4 Astrand and Rodahi, Textbook of Work Physiology, p.131.
5 D. W. Allen and B. M. Quigley, "The Role of Physical Activity in the control of Obesity," Medical Journal of Australia 2 (1977): 434-38; G. F. Fletcher and J. D. Cantwell, Exercise in the Management of Coronary Heart Disease (Springfield, Ill.: C. C. Thomas, 1971); E. C. Hammond and L. Garfinkel, "Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Aortic Aneurysm," Archives of Environmental Health 19 (1969):
167-82; H. J. Montoye, H. L. Metzner, J. B. Keller, B.C. Johnson and F. H. Epstein, "Habitual Physical Activity and Blood Pressure," Medicine and Science in Sports 4 (1972): 175-81; R. S. Paffenbarger and WE. Hale, "Work Activity and Coronary Heart Mortality, " New England Journal of Medicine 292 (1975): 545-50; W B. Kannel, P Sorlie and P McNamara, "The Relation of Physical Activity to Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: The Framingham Study," Symposium:
Coronary Heart Disease and Physical Fitness, ed. O. A. Larsen (Baltimore: University Park Press, 1971).
6 See Appendix, "Healthful Exercise," p.61.
7 E. C. Hammond, "Some Preliminary Findings on Physical Complaints from a Prospective Study of 1,064,004 Men and Women," American Journal of Public Health 54 (1964): 11-23.
8 WB. Webb, Sleep: An Experimental Approach (New York: Macmillan Co., 1968), pp.18-21.
9 M. W. Johns, "Sleep and Hypnotic Drugs," Drugs 9(1975): 448-78
10 N. Kleitman, Sleep and Wakefulness, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), pp.131-92; J. D. Palmer, An Introduction to Biological Rhythms (New York: Academic Press, 1976).
11 Ehrlich and Ehrlich, Issues in Human Ecology, p.145-92.