May. 9th, 2011

eosin: (Chibi sword)
I've been taking more of an interest in natural diet and exercise lately, and I've noticed several parallel efforts seem to be merging in the same direction, leading more and more to the Paleo lifestyle. Briefly, the diet portion is meat, eggs, veggies, fruit, and nuts, but without (or only minimal) grains, dairy, and sugar--and organic if feasible. The exercise portion consists of conditioning and skill movements that use one's own bodyweight (along with some lifting, carrying, and throwing) in natural environments, including fresh air and sunlight.

What's fascinating is that the latest research in this direction has been confirming and reinforcing these basics in various activities. In diet plans, low-fat dogma gave way to the reality that people using Atkins and other low-carb diets were losing weight successfully. Insulin spiking became more of a concern. Nutrients in meat and fat were found to help brain functioning. And so on, to the point that many diets now bear close resemblance because they work. For exercise, there's been a convergence with gymnastics, parkour, crossfit, MovNat, barefoot running, and others that utilize short, high-intensity workouts that emphasize variety and getting enough rest. MovNat and parkour are direct descendants of a structured natural movement program in the early 20th century, which in turn was based on observations of various athletic tribes in Africa.

What it all means is that we've been living a certain way for about 2 million years, and changes from that are very recent in our evolutionary history. They are so recent that we have essentially the same DNA that we did at the end of the Ice Age. The more we deviate from it, the more health problems emerge. The good news is that there are safe, fun, and socially acceptable ways of getting back in touch with our true nature.

One part of this that's been a bit surprising is the issues of shoes vs. going barefoot. Wearing shoes contributes to long-term joint and back problems, and simply transitioning to going barefoot more often naturally corrects this. In particular, for those who wear shoes all the time, making a careful progression to barefoot running wakes up the nerves and muscles of the feet so that they become more flexible and agile, as if they were starting to behave more like hands. Other surprises were things like how the amount of time one sits during the day has a dramatic effect on many other health conditions. And in looking up natural movement, I also brushed up on related info about other primates, and it was a reminder that, biologically, we are still animals.

Some sites cover the basics pretty well, such as Mark's Daily Apple and Paleo in a Nutshell, and CrossFit has a lot of variety for workouts. After looking down at the caveman from our modern society, we find that there's a lot to learn from him. It doesn't mean that one needs to run around in animal skins, but it does mean that we should be taking barefoot walks in the park or at the beach, play some fun sports, see and enjoy nature some more, climbing a tree or jungle gym, and so on. I've been making the transition gradually so that the habits stick over time. I'm looking forward to better health for many years in the future.

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The Pedantic Swordsman

March 2013

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