Since ancient times, healers have recognized the curative power of physical activity. Yet only recently has scientific evidence confirmed the widespread belief that movement heals.
Today, virtually every form of medicine recognizes these basic truths:
1. Simple exercise can have profound healing effects.
2. Specific "healing moves" can help fight illness and enhance health.
These concepts are embraced by traditional healers and modern scientists, Eastern practitioners and Western physicians, alternative and conventional medicine advocates alike. At a time when patients and health-care providers are searching for safe, effective, and inexpensive therapies, healing moves provide an ideal self-care strategy to help prevent, relieve, and sometimes even cure disease.
Research Documents Exercise's Therapeutic Power
Solid scientific research documents exercise's therapeutic power. Over the last few decades, study after study has shown that moving regularly enhances health, while inactivity impairs it. Physical activity can help some diabetics come off insulin and some hypertensives quit their high-blood-pressure medication. It can lower cholesterol, ease arthritis pain, lift depression, relieve anxiety, and help asthmatics breathe more easily. It can slow the aging process and boost both the length and the quality of life.
Movement enhances the heart's ability to pump blood, the lungs' capacity to fill with oxygen, the metabolism's ability to burn fat, and the immune system's defensive power. In fact, virtually every bodily system becomes stronger and more efficient with regular exercise. A growing amount of research indicates that getting regular physical activity may be the single most important thing you can do to prevent disease and promote good health.
Healing Moves: Low Tech, Low Risk, Low (or No) Cost
This may surprise some people in our prescription-oriented society, where we're constantly searching for wonder drugs and taking the "high-tech" road to health. In contrast, our healing moves are low tech, low risk, low (or no) cost, and readily available. All it takes to harness the curative power of movement is time.
Despite widespread misconceptions, healing movement doesn't take a lot of time, and it's not even necessary to sweat. Accumulate 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week -- that is the simple prescription for good health touted by the U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health.
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The delightful surprise (as those who exercise regularly will confirm) is that the time you spend moving is generally repaid in full by the energy, relaxation, and pleasure that physical activity brings. Unfortunately, too many people have come to think of exercise as a distasteful chore, often because of bad experiences, misconceptions about exercise, a poor body image, or frustrating athletic endeavors.
The challenge, then, is to cast off past negative notions about movement -- like the hazardous myth of "no pain, no gain" or the false idea that "you have to be thin to be fit". Instead, it's time to go out and play -- to recapture the joy of motion we had as children, when "recess" (i.e., movement) was our favorite subject.
Exercise Enhances Mental And Spiritual Health
In fact, the most healing moves of all are those involved in just about any physical activity you enjoy. You can pick from a wide array of options: dancing, walking, swimming, skating, martial arts, cycling, tennis, yoga, to name a few. As the yogis say, "Follow your bliss." Because exercise does more than just boost your physical health -- it can enhance your mental and spiritual health as well.
The best way to achieve the full spectrum of "body and soul healing" accessible through movement is to approach this powerful therapy with the excitement and pleasure we knew in childhood, running outside on a beautiful day to play with friends. Instead of a dreaded "workout," exercise then becomes a much anticipated "play break" that can be a highlight of your day.
It's important, too, to recognize that moving regularly is not just about looking better. That's a merely a side benefit. Moving is about feeling better. We are physical animals, and daily exercise is essential to our health. In previous generations people's days were filled with physical activity, but today we must find ways to fit movement into our lives. Our parents and grandparents needed to walk regularly and perform many other physical tasks to get through their days. But now we sit on our bottoms most of the time, and our main exercise is pushing buttons. In many buildings, we can't even use our muscles to open the doors or climb the stairs if we want to: doors fly open as if by magic and elevators are the only route upstairs. In a world where we can do everything -- from shopping to mowing the lawn -- sitting down, we must make time to move.
The Consequences of Inactivity Are Grimly Clear
If we don't, the consequences are grimly clear. Inactivity is a central contributor to America's top killers: heart disease, some cancers, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and osteoporosis. And it plays a major role in a host of other common health problems, from back pain to depression. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of all these ailments, and for some of these conditions, exercise not only inhibits or delays disease progression but can actually reverse the illness -- often more safely and more effectively than drugs or surgery.
"If exercise could be packed into a pill," sums up a report from the National Institute on Aging, "it would be the single most widely prescribed, and beneficial, medicine in the nation."
Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House, Inc.
Copyright 2000, 2009 by Carol Krucoff and Mitchell Krucoff, M.D.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced
or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Healing Moves: How To Cure, Relieve, And Prevent Common Ailments With Exercise
by Carol & Mitchell Krucoff.
Whether you are suffering from the common cold or struggling with more acute conditions like diabetes, arthritis, or heart disease, here is a book that can finally offer a safe, effective, and inexpensive alternative to drugs. Pioneering research shows that simple movement offers profound benefit and can help prevent, relieve, and sometimes even cure a wide range of diseases. Grounded in solid, Western science, but embracing Eastern concepts of healing, this groundbreaking work offers exercise 'prescriptions' for a full range of health problems.
Info/Order this book. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About The Authors
Carol Krucoff is an award-winning journalist and fitness expert. She served as founding editor of the Health Section of The Washington Post, where she worked as a reporter and editor for 10 years, and her syndicated column, "Bodyworks," ran in newspapers around the country from 1988 to 2000. Now a contributing editor and columnist for Yoga Journal, she writes for numerous national publications and her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Reader's Digest, and Health. Prevention
Mitchell W. Krucoff, M.D., is a Professor of Medicine/Cardiology at Duke University Medical Center and is internationally recognized for his pioneering research in several areas including: complementary therapies in patients with heart disease, computer-assisted heart monitoring, and new modalities of coronary revascularization. Mitchell is Senior Editor of the Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine and past Editor-in-Chief of the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. He is also the Director of the MANTRA Study Project examining the impact of noetic therapies?including intercessory prayer, music, imagery and touch therapy?on patients with heart disease.