Remember the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz? His body hadn’t been used in so long that he was stiff, inflexible and barely capable of moving … that is, until Dorothy fixed him up with a few squirts of oil.
|Stress, poor diet and too much sitting may be making your body as stiff and rusty as the Tin Man’s … both inside and out.|
Well, like the Tin Man, your body, too, can “rust” and get stiff if you don’t use it. This can manifest not only in your joints and muscles, but also in your internal organs. After several decades of misuse or neglect, your body may begin to manifest signs of illness or even start to shut down.
Oxidative Stress: When Your Body Rusts from the Inside Out
Oxidative stress is now recognized as a leading cause of chronic disease and aging. It occurs when free radicals — toxic oxygen molecules produced by normal body processes but also via external sources like stress and pollution — spiral out of control.
Even the healthiest among us have free radicals in our systems. However, free radicals are normally kept under wraps where they cannot cause great harm to your body. When free radicals exist in your body in excess, the harmful condition known as oxidative stress occurs.
“There is evidence that free radicals are a predominant factor in the etiology of a wide range of diseases and conditions such as cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis,” free radical and antioxidant expert Li Li Ji, Ph.D. of the University of Wisconsin in Madison told Men’s Fitness
What causes oxidative stress?
There are two major ways that free radicals can overwhelm your body. One is that you’ve been exposed to an abundance of them due to environmental pollutants and other toxins, including:
- Cigarette smoke
- Automobile exhaust
- Air pollution
- Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections
The other is that your body is lacking in the healthy compounds it needs to fight free radicals: antioxidants. Antioxidants can be vitamins, minerals or enzymes, and they exist in foods and certain supplements. Because most Americans do not eat healthy diets — ones that include fruits, vegetables and other whole foods — and instead eat diets rich in processed fast foods, many of us are seriously lacking in these health-giving compounds, and on the contrary are introducing health-damaging foods to our bodies.
Stress, especially when it’s chronic, is another major cause of oxidative stress.
Sittosis and Muscle Atrophy: If You Don’t Use it, You Lose It
Muscle atrophy typically occurs when you don’t use your bones and muscles for an extended period of time, such as while on bed rest or having your leg in a cast. Over time, the lack of use causes your muscles and bones to weaken and waste away.
While not as pronounced as full-blown atrophy, sitting for long periods of time over an extended period is also detrimental for your health.
American adults spend an average of more than eight hours each day in front of screens, including televisions, computer monitors, cell phones and others, according to a Video Consumer Mapping study.
During this time, most Americans are also likely to be sitting, but that’s not all. Americans also sit at their desks and in their cars, which could easily push the average number of hours spent sitting even higher.
What’s the problem with sitting?
Your body was not meant to sit in one position for long periods of time. When this occurs, not only are your muscles not engaged, but the circulation of lipase, an enzyme that absorbs fat, is stopped. So instead of being absorbed by your muscles, when you’re sitting fat recirculates in your bloodstream where it may end up stored as body fat, clogging arteries or contributing to disease.
Sitting has also been found to actually stimulate disease-promoting processes, and may double or even triple your risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and premature death.
Along with sitting less, if you neglect to challenge your body with regular exercise you may also experience muscle atrophy. This is especially true as you get older.
According to a new study in the European journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, after two weeks in a cast (to simulate immobilization), older men’s muscles showed greater signs of atrophy and took longer to recover.
“Two weeks of immobilization only mildly affected young muscle, in terms of tissue maintenance and functionality, whereas old muscle began to atrophy and manifest signs of rapid tissue deterioration,” Morgan Carlson, UC Berkeley researcher and the study’s lead author, told LiveScience.
“The old muscle also didn’t recover as well with exercise,” he said. “This emphasizes the importance of older populations staying active because the evidence is that for their muscle, long periods of disuse may irrevocably worsen the stem cells’ regenerative environment.”
4 Top Tips for Avoiding Tin Man Syndrome
|Regular exercise is a key to keeping your body a well-oiled machine.|
With attention to a healthy lifestyle, you can avoid Tin Man Syndrome and keep your body a well-oiled machine, no matter what your age. Here are the top tips to live by:
1. Eat an Antioxidant-Rich Diet
Antioxidants help prevent oxidation, but you must fortify your diet with them by eating fruits, vegetables, nuts and other whole foods regularly to get the benefit.
Not only do antioxidants help to prevent oxidation, but they may also decrease your risk of infection, heart disease and cancer while boosting the function of your immune system.
We’re all affected by free radicals, as they are a natural byproduct produced in your body. Exposure to environmental toxins like cigarette smoke and radiation can also increase the free radicals in your system.
Antioxidants can be vitamins, minerals or enzymes, and they exist in foods and certain supplements. Because most Americans do not eat healthy diets — ones that include fruits, vegetables and other whole foods — and instead eat diets rich in processed fast foods, many of us are seriously lacking in these health-giving compounds.
Ask your practitioner for simple ways to add antioxidants to your diet such as a whole food based powder to take your meals that contains nutritionally dense fruits and vegetables and additional antioxidant-rich extracts.
2. Exercise Sensibly
Exercise does, in fact, cause oxidative stress in your body, which is why doing too much of it, or at too strenuous a level, can do your body more harm than good.
However, regular exercise that builds your fitness levels gradually will help to enhance your body’s ability to handle stress and other assaults. Exercising also increases the levels of endorphins in your body, which stimulate your immune system, reduce stress and put you in a better mood.
You should incorporate a wide variety of activities ranging from cardio to strength training in your routine,
Try to make time nearly every day to exercise for at least 30 minutes to reduce stress, plus exercising every minute additional to the first 30 minutes helps to burn fat while either way this helps keep a balanced mind, body and spirit.
3. Consider Chiropractic Wellness Care
People who have received chiropractic care had higher mean levels of serum thiol, primary antioxidants that serve as a measure of health status, than those who received no chiropractic care, according to a study in the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research.
“Going through life, we experience physical, chemical, and emotional stress. These stresses affect the function of the nervous system. We hypothesized that these disturbances in nerve function could affect oxidative stress and DNA repair on a cellular level,” Dr. Christopher Kent, one of the study’s authors, told MedicalNewsToday.com. “Chiropractic care appears to improve the ability of the body to adapt to stress.”
4. Take Time to Relax
A stressful, anxiety-filled daily routine will wear you down, no matter how healthy your lifestyle may otherwise be. Managing your stress levels is something you need to devote time to daily, and a first step is often giving yourself permission to take time for yourself to unwind.
One simple way to promote relaxation in your muscles, joints, tendons and body overall is stretching. There are countless stretches for your body, but it takes just 15 of them to stretch 95 percent of your body, according to stretching expert and creator of the DVD Stretching Toward a Healthier Life, Jacques Gauthier. His “Stretching Toward a Healthier Life DVD” shows you all 15 of these most effective stretching exercises, and the full program takes just 15 to 20 minutes a day. These stretches actually feel good when you do them, and will leave you with a heightened sense of well-being and flexibility.
For those of you who need a little extra help relaxing, consider getting a meditation and music CD to calm your mind, soothe your emotions and create a state of deep relaxation in your body, even at the end of a busy, hectic day.
You should also make sure you’re getting enough sleep. When we sleep, the stress hormone, cortisol, is lowered, but when we are sleep deprived, cortisol levels rise. Further, your energy levels will go down and you’ll be less able to cope with any setbacks during your day.
If you have further health concerns related to oxidative stress, muscle atrophy or “sittosis,” you should contact a knowledgeable health care practitioner. At your appointment, he or she can help you develop a plan for leading a healthy, disease-fighting lifestyle at any age.