Posts tagged with 'benefits of exercise'

Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge Day Five #HAWMC

  • Posted on April 5, 2012 at 9:49 am

Today is Day Five of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month during which I’m committed to write daily about health.

The prompt today is to write an ekphrasis post inspired by the image you see on flickr.com/explore and link it to your health focus.

Here’s the photo I found when I clicked on the link:

Frankfurt am Main

I have to admit that before I saw the caption, I thought this photo captured the New York City skyline prior to September 11, 2001. But upon closer examination, I noticed that the Twin Towers were a bit off. I was thankful to see this was a city in one of my favorite countries, Germany.

In reading today’s Journaling Beyond Breast Cancer post and conducting my own research, I learned that ekphrasis, created by the Greeks, is the oldest type of writing about art in the West.  This literary form is designed to make the reader envision the thing described as if it were physically present.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) was the most influential Victorian writer about art, famous for his ekphrastic description (published in Modern Painters in 1843) of Turner’s Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying – Typhoon Coming On, also known as The Slave Ship (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).  Like Homer and Keats, Ruskin combined certain visual details of the painting with allusions to movement and sound in his description of The Slave Ship.  Unlike them, his goal was to persuade readers to believe in his imaginative understanding of an actual work of art.

Purple and blue, the lurid shadows of the hollow breakers are cast upon the mist of the night, which gathers cold and low, advancing like the shadow of death upon the guilty* ship as it labors amidst the lightning of the sea, its thin masts written upon the sky in lines of blood, girded with condemnation in that fearful hue which signs the sky with horror, and mixes its flaming flood with the sunlight, – and cast far along the desolate heave of the sepulchral waves, incarnadines the multitudinous sea.

[Ruskin’s note]*She is a slaver, throwing her slaves overboard.  The near sea is encoumbered with corpses.

Terrifying in its detailed description, this passage is designed to shake the reader to the core as he or she imagines what it would be like to be on that ship.

Now, getting to my exercise for today, I first think of the benefits to the blind of this type of writing. Through ekphrasis those without sight can sense the emotions the artist strives to evoke in those viewing his or her work. I’m thrilled that the Greeks, known sometimes unfairly for their narcissism, originated a literary form that benefits the disabled.

In the photo pictured above, the banking capital of continental Europe is awash in light as twilight settles over the skyscrapers. Bustling workers slave away in cubicles or lavish offices over various urgent tasks, scurrying to finish their day’s work so they can go shopping, head to a restaurant for a meeting with a client, or hurry home to a waiting family. Some linger in fluorescent-lit offices well after the bells of the cathedral strike eight, oblivious to the outside world.

The Samsung sign–an ode to technology for which Germany is famous–is splashed across two sides of a building, reminding consumers to buy the latest cell phone and tablet. Hauptwache7, one of the most famous plazas in the city, beckons residents and workers with its neon signage to explore the shops, banks, and Starbucks tucked into their underground pedestrian “hole”. Included within this complex is a dental practice offering bleaching and veneers to those ageing baby-boomers wanting to look sharp in their mid-life crises. And commuters can enter Hauptwache’s bustling station to ride public transportation home.

In this urban roller coaster ride of über-angst, health-related concerns take a back seat. How often do these worker bees stop to think what they might be doing to their bodies by sitting at desks all day long, typing while eating at keyboards? Have they considered how a bit of fresh air might inspire a new perspective, sparking unimaginable creativity?

In my patent attorney days I remember facing a particularly troublesome challenge when attempting to advocate for the patentability of a certain invention. In vain I searched my mind for a clever way to express the unique merits of the discovery as I sat before my monitor. Nothing came to mind. So at lunch I ran down three floors and out the door of my double-paned building, as if it were a prison for white-collared workers, headed for the San Francisco Bay. This was at a time before civilized paths with benches graced the shoreline to allow meditation and reflection. It was wilder back then, more suited to my state of mind.  While crossing a tidal stream I got a “soaker” that ran up my knee-high and drenched one leather pump.

But nothing deterred me. I skipped along as the fresh breeze off the water misted my face.  The cloud-streaked skies spoke to me in a way that an inner office could not. Maybe it reminded me of my carefree days as a child when I explored the Queen Anne’s Lace-covered fields beyond my backyard.

When I returned to my office a half hour later, I champed at the bit, full of fresh ideas to be downloaded from my mind and uploaded into my waiting computer. The story ended well: the arguments won the favor of the Patent Office and my spirits were restored. I learned a lesson from fresh air. I learned my mother was right to kick my tweenage body outdoors when the weather was nice. Whenever I had writer’s block, I retreated to my refuge of seagulls and marshes.

How much we could learn if we just stepped outside our comfort zone!  My hope is that busy bees in cities around the world like Frankfurt am Main will get on board with the concept of focusing on health. Perhaps if I had had this epiphany earlier, my immune system might have been stronger. It might not have prevented cancer, but it would have reduced my stress level, and that alone would be beneficial. Cease the day! Walk the plein-air walk! And smell the calla lilies along the way!

If you work, do you stop every so often, get up to stretch, and even go outside for a walk to get the creative juices going again? How do you “recharge your batteries” when they are on low? If you live in a big city, how do you escape the urban doldrums?

Could Exercise be a Fountain of Youth?

  • Posted on December 9, 2009 at 3:20 pm

A new study has revealed, at a molecular level, why those who regularly exercise are healthier as they age.  The active people had cells that, when viewed under a microscope, were younger than those of the inactive people who participated in the study. This finding may explain how exercise helps prevent degenerative diseases associated with aging, such as heart attacks, diabetes and cancer.

Even though I got cancer at 43 despite my regular running routine, I believe this study: exercise is vital to health and keeps people youthful. Perhaps I would not have endured my grueling treatments as well if I had not exercised regularly before cancer struck.

The article describing this research can be found at: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20091201/molecular-proof-exercise-keeps-you-young?ecd=wnl_skin_120909

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