If you have a purpose or a dream, large or small, it’s difficult to accomplish it unless you’re healthy. Health is the basic tool for anything you want to do, although people do the best they can in whatever condition they are in. At the foundation of your health—mental, physical, emotional, spiritual—is physical health. Although the power of the mind and heart can overcome physical limitations, when you are physically healthy, it’s easier for your mind to be clear and your emotions to be calm. You have mental and emotional space to focus on your spiritual development, and you have the energy and power to take on any task.
Lack of health, according to Asian medicine, ultimately comes from the flow of life energy in your body being blocked so that your natural healing power is prevented from working. Conditions causing most symptoms recover with time if you release blockages and restore good blood and energy circulation. Breathing and meditation help remove blockages from your body, but the best way to do it for your overall health is to move.
Moving can mean specific motions and postures, such as the ones found in meridian exercise, yoga, tai chi, and qigong. It can also mean weight training and aerobic exercises. But, it can even mean simply getting out of your seat.
It’s widely known that habitually sitting for long periods of time has a negative effect on health. For example, the risk of dying from heart disease is reportedly six times higher in people who spend a lot of time sitting than in those who exercise daily. Some studies say that reducing the amount of time you spend sitting each day to less than three hours can extend your life expectancy two years.
However, it’s not just the overall amount of time you spend sitting that makes a difference to your health; it’s also the length of time you spend sitting at once. If you spend most of your time sitting, even if you exercise at a fitness center 4 to 5 times a week, you won’t get the same health benefits as when you take intermittent breaks from sitting and move your body. When you sit for hours on end, your body gets stiff and the blood, lymph, and energy in your body, even the food moving through your intestines, can’t circulate well. Your veins and lymph vessels don’t have an active force moving blood and lymph through them. They require muscle movement to push the fluid through. As a result, when you sit too much, blood and lymph can pool in the hands and legs, and then toxins aren’t flushed out, and immune cells, nutrients, and oxygen can’t get to where your body needs them.
So while going to the gym or starting an intense workout regimen is great, it’s not sufficient or sustainable for improving and maintaining your health if it’s something you’re not excited about. Instead, I suggest doing “opportunistic exercise.” Opportunistic exercise is a lifestyle approach in which you take advantage of ordinary, daily moments to do short periods of frequent exercise.
I realized the power of opportunistic exercise after I experienced physical decline in my mid-fifties. I gradually had less physical energy, muscle strength, and sharp reflexes, and I experienced depression and falling ambition. My eyesight grew worse, my gums were in bad shape, and I gained weight so that my body was heavy and my knees didn’t feel well.
That really got my attention. I heard a voice of awakening, telling me that I must change myself. The question was, how? Having to deal with a busy schedule of reading dozens of reports, meeting countless people, and giving lectures from dawn to dusk every day, I decided to start doing what I call One-Minute Exercise.
For One-Minute Exercise, each hour, you do one minute of moderate to vigorous exercises that can effectively work your muscles and raise your heart rate in a short period of time. You could do exercises like push-ups, squats, sit-ups, jumping jacks, jumping in place, and bear walking. It’s good to set an alarm to go off every hour. Then you can do about one minute ten times a day.
I fit in these exercises wherever and whenever I can, not only once an hour. I do push-ups against the sink before washing my hands in the bathroom. I do chair push-ups when I’m sitting for a while working. Or I do bear walking, which is walking on all fours with your knees straight and your palms and feet flat.
Suddenly doing a moderate to high-intensity workout may cause muscle pain. If that happens, you should mix in gentle exercises like stretching or Belly Button Healing instead of strength training. And there’s nothing that says you have to do just one minute of exercise. You can do it for five minutes or 10 minutes, or however long you’d like. When you have the time, doing several sets will double the effects.
You might wonder how effective doing short, simple exercises throughout your day could be, but, my own experience and the experience of people practicing One-Minute Exercise around me have shown that these exercises really work. My body has become lighter, more agile, and more vigorous through this lifestyle. Even now, when I’m almost 70 years old, I do push-ups in a handstand against the wall every day. And, when I golf, I send the ball flying farther and more accurately than I did when I was in my forties.
Many changes will come if you do One-Minute Exercise, even for just three months. You’ll experience physicochemical changes in your body and emotional changes in your mind, and you’ll find yourself developing a new lifestyle of moving your body no matter what. You can break free of distracting thoughts, stress, negativity, lethargy, and inertia and go right into things. Then you can make the most of the next hour by using it more productively and creatively. When you manage your physical condition, you end up managing your time, emotions, and goals—managing your life.