Look after your Lymph.
The body is about 70% fluid. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the majority of that fluid was made up of blood, but there is in-fact a different kind of fluid which outnumbers blood by as much as 4 to 1, and goes by the name of lymph. Lymph has other functions, but it’s primary function is to collect, and then remove waste products and form the body. It’s essentially your body’s drainage system.
Keep it moving.
Unlike blood which has its very own pump – the heart. Lymph doesn’t have a pump and relies on movement to keep it circulating through the body. The reason its so important that lymph keeps moving is because this ensures its passed through the lymph nodes for filtration. The less you move, the more waste products you accumulate in your system. Long periods of time spent stationary i.e. sitting at a desk, sat on the sofa or lying in bed, all result in poor lymphatic drainage. This is worsened by failing to drink enough water because dehydration causes lymph fluid to thicken, making it more difficult to move though the system. At this point you’ve basically turned your body into a cesspit of waste products and toxins. This makes you feel tired, sluggish and lethargic, and generally doesn’t do you any good.
‘The less you do, the the less you want to do’
‘The more you do, the more you want to do’
Active Sedentary – Desk Warrior
If movement is what’s needed then of course, intense exercise would do the trick here. The surge of energy you get after a workout is actually explained, in part, by the ‘flushing out’ of waste products during exercise. But smashing yourself in the gym isn’t the only way to get lymph moving. In-fact, given that 1 hour of intense exercise only accounts for 4% of the day, if the rest of your day consists of sitting at your desk, in your car, on your sofa, then lying down in your bed for 8 hours or so, you may actually fall into a category known as the ‘Active Sedentary’. These people may attempt to claim the moral high ground over those who fail to spandex up and ‘hit the gym’, but if you compared their overall daily movement, and associated calorie expenditure, to that of a house wife or someone working a manual job you’d be quite surprised.
I do my best not to fall into this category but as much as I hate to admit it, from Mon to Fri I’m a desk warrior. I quite often find myself zombified at the end of hard days sitting. So I really need to take my own advice here. Something I’m not always good at.
What I’d do if I were me.
Here are some tips to help keep that lymph moving along nicely:
- Set alarms on your phone throughout the day. It goes off. Have a drink. Move.
- Go for a walk on lunch breaks.
- Make calls on the move.
- Walk or cycle to work.
- If you drive. Park further away.
- Take the stairs. Avoid lifts and escalators.
- If you don’t work. Get a dog, or an allotment, or borrow some children.
- Get a wearable activity tracker. They seem to get most people moving.
- Stop shallow breathing. Do some deep diaphragmatic breathing. This is a form of movement.
- Sweat. (Exercise, Sauna, Steam room)
- Get a massage or use a foam roller.
And for the more adventurous / experimental out there:
- Get a Rebounder (mini trampoline). Bounce Away. NASA say it works. I trust them.
- Have a Contrast Shower (alternating hot and cold). Blood vessels dilate and constrict. This is movement.
- Do some Dry Skin Brushing. This also helps to clear cellulite.
- Have an Infrared Sauna. Best kind of sauna for lymphatic drainage and general detoxification.
The modern mindful mover.
So…if you want to avoid becoming a human cesspit, feel better, and have more energy, you need to limit the amount of time you spend stationary each day. You wouldn’t have to go back many generations to find a population who would find such advice ridiculous, and perhaps even insulting. Unfortunately, daily life in the modern world does not always support some of our most basic, fundamental human needs i.e. movement. The difference now is that we have to be aware, mindful and make a concerted effort to do the things our body, and our genes, expect us to do. When we don’t, we pay the consequences with our health.
Having said that, it could be argued that modern life and advances in technology provide us with as much, if not more, than they take away from us. So although I won’t spend my day tomorrow hunting and gathering or ploughing the fields, I may well do some dry skin brushing, in an infra-red sauna, wearing my fitbit, whilst bouncing on a mini trampoline watching Eastenders.