Did an exercise program beat the Spanish Flu?
In 1918 as the Spanish Flu swept through the world, ultimately killing as many as 50 million people, 25,000 men–prisoners of the British government during the First World War–were confined to an island in the Irish Sea. To alleviate boredom and promote physical and mental wellbeing, one of the prisoners led the other men in a program of daily exercises. Nobody who followed his regimen contracted the Spanish Flu. “Nobody got sick” became the mantra for the exercise system originally known as “contrology,” but is now famously associated with the last name of its founder. You'll discover more about this enduring, fluid, and functional exercise program in this week's 5-Minute Recharge that's focused on the many and varied benefits of physical activity, especially during a pandemic. Let's get started! ONE MOVING QUOTE “When women walked and talked together, everything changed.” – T. Morgan Dixon, co-founder of GirlTrek that combines walking, civil rights education, and healing
A gym in Redondo, California has built workout pods out of PVC pipes and shower curtains. THREE ACTIVE IDEAS #1 DON'T TAKE THIS SITTING DOWN You may want to stand up and get moving after reading about a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found sitting is associated with a higher risk of cancer mortality. Sedentary behaviour has already been linked to numerous negative health outcomes including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality (basically anything that can kill you, will kill you faster if you sit around and wait for it). What makes this new study unique is that it focused on cancer mortality and didn't rely on people self-reporting their exercise. Fitness trackers were used to measure activity levels, and revealed that the most sedentary people had an 82 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the least sedentary. The good news is that even 30 minutes of daily light-intensity movement reduced the risk of cancer by 8 percent, and moderate-intensity activity such as bike riding, dancing, and brisk walking reduced the risk by a whopping 31 percent. “I tell my patients to consider standing up for five minutes every hour or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It might not sound like much, but this study tells us even light activity has cancer survival benefits.” – Dr. Susan Gilchrist #2 LET'S GET FUNCTIONAL “I'm fifty years ahead of my time!” exclaimed Joseph Pilates, the founder of the fitness method pioneered in a WWI prison camp and brought to New York City where it was branded as contrology. After his death in 1967, practitioners of contrology renamed the discipline...you guessed it...pilates. Joseph Pilates believed that to function well in the world, you must function well in your body. He focused on core strength and flexibility, combining aspects of yoga, martial arts, and gymnastics with the fluid movements of children and animals. Although it's often associated with celebrities, pilates is about enabling everyone to master everyday life and tasks. Classical pilates, a series of 34 mat exercises (you can find a beginners variation here), supports functional movement and is perfect for confined spaces. The origin story about people not contracting Spanish Flu thanks to pilates may have had something to do with the fact that they were imprisoned on a remote island, but as biographer Eva Rincke puts it, Joseph Pilates motivated his fellow prisoners to get and keep fit, and “helped them not to freak out during that very long time they spent locked away behind barbed wire.” We're all a bit locked away right now, and can benefit from the functional fitness and calming effects that pilates offers. “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.” – Joseph Pilates #3 EXERCISE YOUR IMMUNITY Joseph Pilates, a consummate marketer, may have been overselling his methods by asserting they were protective against the Spanish Flu, but research has shown that exercise has a significant positive effect on the immune system. When we exercise, immune cells are mobilized and are “primed and looking for a fight” as they patrol the body in search of invading organisms. Exercise also releases proteins that increase our resistance to infection. Although it's too soon to know the effect of exercise on the coronavirus, there is ample evidence of a protective effect against other viruses such as influenza, rhinovirus and herpesviruses, and astronauts with higher pre-flight fitness displayed better immune function on a sixth-month mission to the International Space Station than their less fit counterparts. “While exercise may not prevent us from becoming infected if exposed, it is likely that keeping active will boost our immune system to help minimize the deleterious effects of the virus, ameliorate our symptoms, expedite our recovery, and lower the likelihood that we can infect others.” – Richard J. Simpson, Ph.D. American College of Sports Medicine *********************************** THE FAST FIVE 1. The Biggest Psychological Experiment in History is Running Now - Lydia Denworth, Scientific American (We're all subjects in a study of how people respond to adversity) 2. The other pandemic worsening coronavirus? Obesity - The World (COVID-19 is pouring gasoline on a smoldering obesity fire) 3. Demonic Possessions - The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos (Time 27 minutes) (Buying stuff doesn't make us happy...but can make us unhappy.) 4.I forced myself to walk for an hour every day during the pandemic, and I was surprised by how much it improved my mental and physical health - Business Insider (“Walking is the best possible exercise” - Thomas Jefferson) 5. iAddiction - No Mercy No Malice (NYU Professor Scott Galloway explores how gamifying trading on platforms such as Robinhood can be deadly, especially for young men) *********************************** YOUR 5-MINUTE RECHARGE CHALLENGE YOUR EXERCISE SNACK “I find doing small movements throughout the day keeps you aligned with the goal of thriving during the apocalypse.” – Steve Kamb, founder of Nerd Fitness When it comes to physical activity, every little bit counts and can add up to physical transformation. Exercise snacks are a great way to painlessly fit fitness into even the busiest (or laziest) days. Whether it's three squats after every episode of a Netflix binge, or five wall pushups every time you visit the bathroom, this week's 5-Minute Recharge Challenge is to commit to one exercise snack. Simply fill in these blanks and you're good to go. When I __________ I will _____________. “Put on a song and move your body in any way that the song moves you...a three-minute movement dose that involves music will empower you.” ― Psychologist Kelly McGonigal shares her favourite exercise snack on the latest Becoming Better podcast Wishing you a safe, healthy, and physically active week ahead, Lynne & Addie