A healthy physical body

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In order to maintain a healthy physical body we need to take care of all of the following, and this can easily occupy us for 50% of our time each day.  It is worth noting this and taking steps to reduce it, as there are more interesting things that we can do with our time.

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Water – drinking 8 glasses a day is an urban myth, but it is good to keep yourself hydrated, particularly if exercising or detoxifying.  It is hard to overdose on water (not impossible, but you have to drink a great deal!).  Beware of the industry that has sprung up selling bottled water at high prices, but try to get water from a pure fresh source if you can.

Salt – essential for the body electrolytes.  You need only a couple of grams a day (about a teaspoon) unless you are doing vigorous physical exercise.  Generally you’ll get this from a normal diet without needing to add salt to your food.

Sugar/glucose – essential, but you don’t need much.  Men need about nine teaspoons and women about six teaspoons a day.  Natural sugar such as in fruit is the best.  Most people ingest a great deal more than this, and excess consumption results in obesity and diabetes.  Check out That Sugar Film.

Fat – essential, but again you don’t need much.  A tablespoon per day of good quality fat is needed as it is the transport system for vitamins round the body, and it comprises the membrane of every cell in the body.  Like sugar, our problem is that we ingest far too much poor quality fat on a daily basis and the body is unable to process it.

Protein – is isn’t necessary to eat meat, and many people in western society consume far more than they actually need.  The recommendation is about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass.  It is fine to be vegetarian, but if you don’t eat meat, and particularly if you are vegan or a fruitarian, you need to pay special attention to ensure you get sufficient protein and essential vitamins.  B12 is a common deficiency, as well as vitamin D, iron, omega-3, taurine and sulphur can be in short supply when animal proteins are not consumed.  You will probably need to take multi-vitamin supplements if you don’t eat meat.

Sunlight and fresh air – a small daily amount on uncovered skin (free of suntan lotion) is required for vitamin D production, and helps to kill skin mites.  Thiry minutes early morning or late afternoon is best when you are less likely to get sun-burn.  Natural sunlight through the eyes without sunglasses helps the body maintain proper circadian rhythm and proper sleeping cycles.  Insufficient sunlight in the winter months in countries near the poles is known to lead to depression (seasonal affective disorder).

Exercise – thirty minutes a day is a good guideline (about 10,000 steps if you have a pedometer or fitbit).  Walking, cycling, swimming, gardening, etc.  Yoga and Tai Chi (or similar) is also great.  Jogging on asphalt is a great way to ruin your knees and ankles – try something more gentle like grass or aqua-jogging.

Cleansing – having a shower or a bath once a day is typical.  It is possible to  shower too much, which depletes the skin of its natural oils (unless you replenish them with a natural lotion).  Swimming is also good and salt-water may be better for the skin than fresh water.

Sleep and relaxation – again, some people over-indulge and others don’t get enough.  Stress is a killer.  Aim for 7 – 9 hours sleep each night.  If you meditate this can count towards the total.  There are some clever polyphasic sleep patterns that may enable you to operate on 2 hours sleep per day, but you will have trouble integrating with the rest of society if you try such practices.  In addition to sleep, try getting 30 – 60 minutes a day of a relaxing activity that you enjoy.

Sex  – sex is a natural body function.  How much and how often varies greatly, but abstinence for long periods is not healthy, as is over-indulgence.  There is a tendency amongst religious and spiritual groups to encourage chastity and abstinence.  Some of this comes down to misinterpretation – I once had an argument with a Buddhist lady who insisted that the Buddhist precept to “avoid sexual misconduct” meant to completely abstain from sexual activity.  It doesn’t.  It means not engaging in rape or adultery or any sort of violent sex, or intercourse with animals.  A normal healthy sexual relationship between two consenting adults (of the same or opposite sex) is fine.  The frequency of sexual activity varies widely – for some people it may be twice a day, for others it may be once or twice a month.  There is no such thing as “normal” when it comes to sexual activity.

A safe environment – you need to live in a place which is relatively stress free, so you not in constant fear or continuously under stress.  Quiet locations are good.  Living in the central city is likely to place you under continuous low-level stress.

Avoid:

  • Alcohol and drugs including smoking.  A couple of alcoholic drinks a week shouldn’t do much harm, but many people regularly over-indulge and this is not good for the body.  Ethanol is a poison.
  • Fad diets.  Get in touch with your body and find out what it needs.  There are all sorts of diets out there and if you follow the advice of each you will find they frequently conflict.  Eat moderately and with wide variety.  Avoid heavily processed and refined foods.
  • Excessive amounts of tea and coffee and other caffeine type energy drinks (V, Red Bull, etc.).  A small amount of caffeine is fine, but it is addictive.
  • Engaging in activities or living environments where the body is in constant stress.