A new slant on why exercising and moving are so good for us

New Scientist, June 15th, ran an article by Herman Pontzer called ‘Step on it’, subtitled ‘We know exercise is good for us. But how much do we need?’ He points out that most animals are really lazy – resting and sleeping whenever possible to save energy for survival and reproduction. Great apes, for example, rest or sleep 18 hours a day. But as our ancestors began hunting and gathering around 2.5 million years ago, they gained an evolutionary advantage from being able to exert themselves physically for long periods of time. Those who hunted or gathered more successfully survived better
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It’s all about fibre

Nobody needs reminding what a confusion of different dietary models there are out there – many shouted from the rooftops and vigorously promoted by authorities as varied as nutritional experts, the food industry, and young (usually female) vloggers selling the ‘clean’ eating message. One common feature of popular diets in the past few years has been the anti-carbohydrate trend, espoused by paleo eaters, Atkins diet advocates and many more. Carobohydrates have been blamed for a host of diseases – especially the steady worldwide rise in obesity. The problem with this reductionist approach is that carbohydrate at a category covers everything
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Qigong and the Paddington Stare

Anyone who has seen the wonderful film Paddington 2 (and what a delight in store if you haven’t) will remember the Paddington hard stare. As the little bear says,” my aunt taught me to do them when people had forgotten their manners”, and in the movie, even hardened convicts quail when Paddington turns it on them. I found myself referring to the Paddington stare in a recent qigong class when we were doing the tiger form. Chinese qigong books often suggest that a ‘fierce stare’ be adopted when doing practices like the tiger. The tiger belongs to Wood and thus
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Movement and stillness – yin and yang in practice

“In all stillness there must be movement; in all movement there must be stillness” Qigong saying   Some years ago a Chinese doctor called Yan Dexin wrote a book called Aging and Blood Stasis, which emphasised an interesting approach to the treatment of disease in the elderly – one that has meaning for all of us in our practice of what the Chinese call the internal arts (qigong, taichi, bagua, yoga etc.). The conventional (and rather obvious) idea in Chinese medicine is that as we age we use up our vital resources (known as jing or essence) until finally, when
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Time keeps on slipping slipping slipping into the future

So sang Steve Miller and we all know how true it is. We look forward to peak events and can’t wait for them to happen – whether that’s our next meal, holiday, party, sexual encounter, sleep, or for me just now, England’s matches at the World Cup – then suddenly they’re gone, almost as though they never happened. Not only does time keep slipping past like this but we often feel that we’ve not been fully awake through the passing hours and days, and we suddenly discover that another week, month, year of our limited allotment has slipped away, almost
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Stress is killing us but we can help ourselves

A shocking report has just revealed that three quarters of Britons have felt so stressed in the past year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Even more shockingly, one in three have felt suicidal and one in six have self-harmed. Women (81%) were more affected than men (67%) and young adults were overall the most severely affected. Apart from the direct misery of stress, it can also lead to serious health problems if it’s prolonged – including digestive disease (such as IBS, stomach ulcers), heart disease, insomnia, headaches, depression, weakened immunity, diabetes, infertility, loss of libido and erectile
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Why do we keep the upper back wide in qigong?

I can’t remember where I first heard about the importance of keeping the upper back wide, with the shoulder blades sliding away from each other, in the practice of qigong and the internal martial arts. Like many things, I practised what I was told, and it was only slowly that I began to understand why. A Chinese medicine teacher I once had remarked that the human body has a major design fault: it is both vertical and alive. Being alive, it has yang energy (whose nature is to rise) and being vertical that yang energy can easily rise excessively. Physically
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Preparing for Pregnancy – nutrition and lifestyle of both parents affects child health

It seems a matter of common sense that a mother’s diet and lifestyle during pregnancy will affect the future health of her child. It was certainly an idea embedded in most traditional cultures with all kinds of advice (not always welcome) given on how a woman should behave. For example the 14th century Chinese doctor Zhu Danxi said, “While the child is in the uterus, it shares the same body with its mother. For that reason, the mother should take particular prudence and care about her food and drink as well as her daily life activities.” It’s surprising, then, to
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High fat, low fat, vegetable fat, animal fat?

High fat, low fat, vegetable fat, animal fat … one of the most controversial subjects in nutrition today is which kind – and quantity – of fats to eat. There’s a bit of history behind this. In 1977 Senator George McGovern and his Senate Committee published Dietary Goals for the United States in response to a rise in chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. It recommended “less fat, less cholesterol, less refined and processed sugars, and more complex carbohydrates and fiber.” Immediately powerful lobbies swung into action with the result that the dangers of sugar were demoted, the value
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Tai chi helps with fibromyalgia

There’s a large and growing body of research showing the benefits of tai chi and/or qigong. In most cases it simply backs up the experience of the many practitioners who find it benefits them, improving both general health and specific problems. So we might ask why we should get excited about research at all. Well one of several reasons, and perhaps the most important, is that in Britain at least, research is the main thing that decides whether something is adopted or promoted by the National Health Service. So a new study published in the British Medical Journal showing that
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