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Cancer Mentality additional information — Movement

The World Health Organization (WHO) says “… There is a link between overweight and obesity to many types of cancer such as esophagus, colorectal, breast, endometrium and kidney … Regular physical activity and the maintenance of a healthy body weight, along with a healthy diet, considerably reduce cancer risk.”

We all know that there are fads that come and go, and that not all research is good research, but with such a warning as this from the WHO, I think we should all take some note, and here I am focusing on the mention of regular physical activity.

One idea I have heard quite a lot recently is “sitting is the new smoking”. This new saying sounds extreme, but there are studies looking in detail at how our bodies react to our easy modern lifestyles. Moving our bodies — being active — assists the transportation of nutrients and waste around the body through the lymphatic, circulatory, digestive, and other systems as well as through the blood. The longest-lived people in the world are incidentally active until death. To me this makes it fairly simple and natural to expect that we should move about at least more than a minimal amount. I will leave you to carry out your own research into this if you are concerned, but the following discussion and suggestions on being more incidentally active I find more helpful than being told we should have a firm regime at the gym. The kids’ animated movie “Wall-e” shows a future ‘us’ being absurdly inactive, reliant on robots and computers for our existence and even our communication when sitting right next to each other. It’s worth a look and a laugh to see how this could be taken to a comical extreme.

Allied to movement is posture, which is surprisingly linked to many health concerns. I learned through my daughter’s orthodontic treatment that jaw size and shape can negatively affect breathing, swallowing, sleep (causing apnea in the worst cases), and of course issues with teeth alignment (and therefore overall health). This opened up a world for me that I hadn’t known of before and I was intrigued to learn more about the flow of influences from various parts of our bodies. Chiropractors have taught that spinal issues can be linked to stomach and digestion, osteopaths and visceral therapists have told me that muscles, tendons, and even organs will put emphasis where needed to protect an injured body part and this sets up tension that not only affects posture but puts unwanted pressure on other muscles, joints, and internal organs, and so on the chain of effects go. Tight hamstrings in the legs can contribute to lower back pain, and so on. These examples are conditions affecting posture, but the reverse is also true in that posture can affect so many other areas of health. With a holistic view of our overall health, a good practitioner can guide us to improve all of these complexities.

The wellness industry advice on moving the body in ways that we enjoy comes in varying forms, but there are common threads, all tempered with disclaimers and limits. Essentially the message is that moving is important, and perhaps that too much exertion is not so good. Balance is the key, not too much or too little, as too much adds to stress levels within the body, which we know isn’t good for health. Finding a way of moving (exercising) that is pleasurable seems the best to me, otherwise it is not likely to become a part of life.

Walking is said to be one of the best forms of movement as it makes use of all of our body and helps to circulate blood, lymph, etc. The Alexander Technique (Dynamics of Movement) practitioners teach that walking regularly is a maintenance activity for the body. These practitioners show intimate knowledge of the way we walk, the way we hold ourselves, what parts of our body we give preference to, and how our posture affects our overall health.

Incidental movement is the kind of activity that happens or could happen as part of everyday life rather than in a controlled and programmed environment like a gym. Examples include:

  • Carrying a shopping basket for smaller supermarket visits, rather than always using a trolley,
  • Walk home (or even part-way) carrying some of that shopping. Try carrying some on each shoulder, try using a backpack, or even work up to carrying small loads in your own new ways … all of these will use muscle groups that you don’t normally use, and that is great.
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Take the stairs two steps at a time instead of one
  • Work up to taking all of the stairs without having a rest break until you get to your floor
  • Grow some vegies in your yard. Bending, twisting, kneeling to plant things or to prepare the soil, stretching for those ripe tomatoes and lettuce leaves to add to your meal really tries out the body if you let it, and it feels great.
  • If you work at a desk a lot, try a standing desk. Occasionally wiggle across your chair to sit on one butt cheek only, rather than the two we normally use. Try a stool instead of a chair, even try one of those kneeling stools to put the weight on your knees instead of your buttocks/ back of thighs so much
  • Walk to easy destinations instead of always driving the whole way
  • Try modalities like tai chi, yoga, qigong, Pilates, power walking, dancing, controlled breathing, etc., and see which ones you enjoy. Use aspects of these that you like, whenever and however you can fit them into life. These can be adapted and don’t need to always be done in the controlled circumstances of a class group, or even in a certain place.
  • Try incorporating your favorite movements into your daily routines. That is, you might hold your arms outstretched for as long as you can while walking around the block – try it! How long can you do it for today? And tomorrow? It feels great to expand one’s abilities and feel strength growing
  • You might gently stretch your hamstrings while walking by carefully moving in an unusual way, or by taking a break for a few minutes and having your toes on the top of the concrete gutter while your heels are down at the road height, giving those tight hamstrings a stretch
  • Try walking only on a narrow edge like the concrete top of the road gutter; great for developing balance while you walk


Could you take the dog for a daily walk? Don’t have a dog? How about a friend or family member’s dog – they will thank you for it, for sure. Can you walk as fast as the dog wants to excitedly go? If not, perhaps the stretching of your abilities as you try to increase speed is good for you. I know that when I try this with my friends’ dogs, my legs pace further apart than my normal gait, taking my tendons much further than my normal walking speed does, and this stretching feels good. At times I launch into a gentle trot with the dog, and he seems to like that too.

I love to walk, finding it an easy activity to do for hours, and can now do walking meditation, as suggested in the Conversations with God books. Of course it’s not that you shut your eyes to do this, but it is possible to slip into a lovely rhythm and to experience mindfulness or minimization of thought similar to what a sitting meditation can provide, at the same time as exercising my body and having time outdoors.


Balance is something that we can easily take for granted, yet many observe their balance diminishing with age, and this can be alarming. Modern teachers show how simple daily movements can help restore and maintain good balance, and this has been my experience too. Standing on one leg for a time, perhaps toughing the nose while doing this, and even shutting the eyes to sharpen the senses are just a few ideas that one can easily find. The researchers observing centenarians around our world have noted that the active lives of these beloved folks bring a natural retention of good balance. Memorable for me in this research was that Okinawan centenarians suffered almost no broken bones in later life, very different to the statistics of western retirees. This is assumed to be partly because their balance is excellent and they rarely fall, yet also seems to follow from their Japanese culture of using minimal furniture, which means they are used to getting down to the floor and up again, keeping their bodies agile and supple throughout their lives. Using fairly firm rush-covered straw matting called tatami mats on the floor for their beds, eating at low tables while seated on the floor, and using squatting toilets are some examples of their lifestyles that require incidental movement.


The point is, none of this incidental movement is really very difficult, even though it may be out of our ordinary routine and may take some adjusting-to. Have fun with it. Change is worth the effort.


The ‘Asian Squat’ is an example of movement that has grabbed the attention of the wellness industry. This natural sitting position is being hailed for its various health benefits, and one’s ability to do this squatting is said by some to be a predictor of longevity. We have historically squatted on our haunches, but many of us don’t easily do this anymore because we haven’t been accustomed to it. This pose can be beneficial for one’s pelvic floor (assisting bladder control) as well as lumbar stretch, mobilizing the sacroiliac joint, improving the viscera of major organs, and helping with overall bowel health and elimination – see the Poo section for a longer discussion of this. Research has shown that those who use squatting toilets expect reduced rates of colon cancer, colitis, hemorrhoids, hernias, appendicitis, prostate cancer, and more. As a counterpoint here, I wonder if other factors stemming from cultural issues and diet may have an impact on this reduced incidence of dis-ease, but regardless, I know from my own life that I feel the benefits of having this flexibility. I was once taken aback when told by someone in his early sixties that soon I would be unable to reach my shoes to tie my laces (perhaps because he was embarrassed to be struggling with this). At the time of writing, I am 59 and am happy to still be very flexible and mobile, and despite that prediction I can tie my shoelaces easily as well as cut my own toenails, etc. I’m blessed to be flexible, to be able to squat, and I enjoy it.


The Wim Hof Method has gathered much attention in the recent few years as this man from Poland has shown science that not only can he control parts of his physiology deliberately, but he can teach this to others, meaning he is not an anomaly. I looked into Wim’s method as I heard about it at the Wellness Retreat, and had some friends become quite enthusiastic about the benefits. When I looked around, I saw such a buzz about this that I had to take note. Hof’s ‘method’ is simply a wonderful way to improve one’s overall health, stamina, and mind control. The three components are breathing, mind control/concentration, and gradual exposure to cold, all of which can be done cheaply and easily at home.

To explain: Breathing strongly affects the chemical and physiological activities in your body. Throughout the years, Wim Hof has developed special breathing techniques that keep his body in optimal condition and keep him in complete control in the most extreme conditions. He has taught himself to shut off the normal experience of cold yet is not damaged by his extended periods setting records in the ice and snow wearing very little. He is controlling more than his pain threshold — also his physiology. The breathing technique is first and foremost premised on inhaling deeply and exhaling without any use of force, done multiple times. This deep breathing increases oxygenation of the blood and cells as well as expelling stale CO2, with the result that the pH-value in the blood increases (making the blood more alkaline). Normal balance soon returns; this is not permanent.

The outcome of multiple tests showed that Wim Hof and those who practice his method are controlling the concentration of stress hormones in their bodies. In the process, the production of inflammatory proteins decelerates. By doing so, it appears as though a stress reaction, the typical fight of flight response, can be altered.

Tests even showed that “normal” people are more than capable of controlling their immune system by practicing these simple yet effective techniques. Within a short timeframe anyone can gain more control over their health through this method.

There are other technical explanations for benefits from Wim’s techniques, but his own documentation can expand on that. Suffice to say that the benefits are felt and proven by many adherents to Wim’s approach, and science is excited by his ability to control physiology – from his immune system to various aspects of his autonomic nervous system. To me, this is an incredible combination of outcomes that those seeking wellness are on the lookout for. Making the body’s internal environment more alkaline and reducing inflammation proteins is known to be very beneficial.

Check out Wim Hof’s website ( for all the amazing insights gathered over the past few years by this amazing man and the researchers working to understand his approaches.


There is a mental/emotional benefit to be gained from movement too. Much has been said over the years about the way people improve happiness levels, mental sharpness, reduce tiredness, improve appetite and more when they exercise.

Psychologist, MD, and teacher Sir David Hawkins suggests “living in appreciation of the body, using it in joyful ways, with an inner sense of aliveness. Lovingness of the body is gratitude for the body, with affirmations like, “I appreciate all that you do for me, my body, I deeply value you”. He explains that we do things with our bodies that look like ‘exercise’ but it’s not the exercise that makes our body well. Instead, we exert our bodies joyfully as an expression of the love that we have for being alive. It is this expression of gratitude, joyfully moving this-way-and-that which brings healing. To explain another way, instead of thinking that going swimming helped wellness, he says we go swimming because of wellness, as a celebration of aliveness. This is the kind of paradigm-change from the aspect of seeing the mentality in the issue that brings positivity and boosts our health subliminally.


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