Having treated thousands of patients over the years I have found a significant correlation between excessive sports and heart weakness. Many athletes exhibit either heart murmurs and/or a reduction in blood flow, especially to the extremities. They also usually have chronic pain and joint problems. If someone claims to be healthy, but has chronic muscle and joint pains, would you agree with their definition of health?
What is misunderstood in the Western world is the difference between the concept of health and the concept of being physically fit. In the West these two terms are synonymous. However, in Chinese Medicine, there is a great difference between the two. Physically fit simply means having the ability to perform a certain activity with a high level of competence. Activities like running fast or for a long time, riding a bike, jumping high and so forth, are examples of physical proficiency. You might be interested to know that none of those activities have anything to do with health.
From a Chinese Medical Perspective, health is the existence of nutrient rich, highly oxygenated blood coursing undeterred through the entire body. Such a body does not experience chronic fatigue, chronic pain, chronic indigestion or, for that matter, chronic anything. That individual wakes up in the morning with a sweet taste in the mouth, with lots of energy and love in their heart. They work all day, eliminate regularly, are physically tired at the end of the day but still feel great love in their heart. At night they sleep like a baby, waking totally refreshed in the morning. Health has nothing to do with extreme or strenuous activity preformed under pressure or competition. In fact, excessive sports, such as marathon running, have been found in recent studies to be injurious to the heart and severely damaging to the gut.
What happens when a person runs long races is that the blood in the body is shunted to the quadriceps of the legs. There is only so much blood in the body and when you are running these long races, and trying to win them, blood is actually syphoned away from the chest cavity and delivered to the legs. This is why long distance runners and marathon champions usually have caved in chest cavities. Their heart is anemic and their legs are saturated in blood flow. The result? Heart disease, pure and simple. Does this sound like highly nutritious, oxygenated blood coursing through the body? I don’t think so.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. This could be remedied in part if our focus on exercise and nutrition surrounded heart health. The current attitude amongst health enthusiasts is that making the heart perform feats of endurance is somehow good for the heart. This is simply not true and more and more studies are proving it.
We live in a somewhat obsessive culture. We hear that exercise is good so we overdo it. We hear vegetables are good for us so we cut out the meat and animal proteins and become strict vegetarians. We hear weight lifting is good so we are in the gym exhausting ourselves six days a week. The important rule is never to exercise to the point of exhaustion. You should leave the gym feeling refreshed and exhilarated, not wiped-out, limping to your car.
I am 70 years old and I am able to work 13 hours a day because of the Chinese herbs I take and my daily meditation practice, which I perform in the early morning hours. Both of these methods are designed to keep my blood vessels relaxed, my heart muscle without strain, and my body capable of exceedingly good peripheral circulation. I had my circulation tested in a laboratory by a French scientist in 1973 in Switzerland and we found that, during meditation, my peripheral circulation increased three times over its normal rate. This is what happens when the body practices some form of relaxation rather than forms of extreme tension or extreme physical activity.
True health is a constant state of relaxation in the body, blood vessels which are vasodilated allowing the circulatory system to do its job uninhibited, radiant skin, and a lack of acidity in the body, often identified by a sweet taste in the mouth. The one good thing that running or physical exertion exercises do for the body is they most definitely detoxify the liver. Forcing more blood through the liver due to increased heart activity will keep the liver cleaner than normal. Consequently, it is important to have regular exercise in our lives, but not to the extent that is encouraged by our culture. Running triathlons and marathons can be injurious to the body, especially the joints and heart. Fortunately, these types of events have become so popular that most participants are not overdoing it during the race. They are just having fun and not exposing their bodies to the enormous strain that the highly competitive participants are doing. This is perfectly fine, and encourages a healthy, active lifestyle.
One could also consider trying a different form of exercise, like yoga, especially the softer forms. Tai Chi is also an excellent form of exercise, as is regular meditation. Far from being easy, these methods of exercise teach discipline, deep and mindful breathing, and focus. They are also tremendously good for the heart and blood circulation.