Healthy Eating Habits and Exercise
The human body is an extraordinary machine. Designed to house our soul and spirit, it is also the vehicle that transports us through life’s journey. There is nothing more mysterious, more breath taking in its conception, marvellous in its mechanics, exquisite in its range of senses and staggering in our ability to understand the daily miracle routines of the human body. Our instruments, engines, infrastructure, road ways and circuitry – through 10 000 blinks – 20 000 breaths – 100 000 beats are mere ordinary functions in the life of the incredible human machine.
There are more than 6 billion human bodies living on earth and while the blue print of each individual is 99.9% identical, no two of us are exactly the same. Your cells, sensors, muscles, bones heart and brain must marshal all their forces together to get you through your daily activities. Your skin is the body’s largest organ that keeps you in and the world out. It’s your armour, your radiator, your entry to pain and pleasure.
In micro seconds your eye sights, follows, focuses and processes images fractions of an inch long, or moving at hundreds of miles per hour enabling us to access and appreciate the world around us more than any other sense. Not only are they the window to our soul but there are more than a hundred and twenty million photo receptors converting light into electrical impulses before processing and shipping them off to the brain.
Not only are our ears the body’s microphones, they also give us balance and tell us where we are in space. Walking, cycling, diving or just playing a game of tennis would be impossible without the intricate gadgetry deep inside our ear. We hardly ever think of the trauma we cause in our voice boxes when we laugh or scream. High performer vocalist vocal cords are slamming together at an average of 170 times a second to produce the magical melodies that we enjoy listening to.
Without taking a breath we will not be able to survive. More than three hundred million of tiny alveoli are spread across both our lungs. In less than one second oxygen molecules exit the lungs through walls just one cell thick. They then cross into a surging blood stream and are whisked throughout the body to provide precious resources to every one of our trillion of cells. Being a smoker, oxygen can’t empty properly into the lungs due to damaged bronchioles. On the exhalation carbon dioxide, the waste product of breathing, makes the opposite journey back out.
The heart is a muscular pump to its core. Even if it is removed it can still function on its own. Every breath we take deliver oxygen to our trillions of power hungry cells that get our heart to pump. More than a gallon of blood needs to travel through some 60 000 miles of arteries, veins and capillaries and only one little 10 ounce heart has the mammoth task of driving the whole system. It begins with a heartbeat that sends fresh oxygenated blood from the lungs streaming into the heart. Its genius lies in its millions of cardiac cells beating in unity. Blood circulates in less than a minute all around the body every minute of our lives. The more oxygen our cells burn, the harder our heart and blood vessels have to work to deliver more. When we eat, blood rushes to our stomach and when we run to our muscles. Even when you read a book more oxygen must get to your brain.
It takes more than air to feed the body machine. It takes fuel. Every time you swallow a morsel of food, we send it out on a journey designed to suck everything useful out of it. Sitting down for lunch we convert plants or animals into energy and absorb their chemical building blocks into your own flesh and blood. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and nutrients all come from what we eat. Just the idea of food can get your mouth to water. Once we swallowed our food from thereon it gets squeezed like toothpaste through the digestive system. Highly acidic gastro juices are released from the walls of your stomach which is only about a fist size big. But after a big meal it can expand to about 20 times its size. It breaks down the protein in our food while muscle contractions knead and chard it into a pulp. It absorbs very few nutrients though. Food now passes through the 20 foot disassembly line of the small intestine. For approximately 5 hours the foods building blocks are pushed, prodded and sprayed with digestive juices until its vital elements are forced through the intestinal wall and into the blood stream. From here most of the nutrients will flow directly to the liver- the body’s largest internal organ. The liver breaks down, repackages and delivers nutrients to our cells for growth and power. Our body ultimately tries to balance energy intake but sometimes more goes in than goes out. The result – fat. It doesn’t take a lot of excess calories to allow weight gain – only 15 more a day than the required amount that you need. The amount in just 4 pistachio nuts will add a pound and a half of fat over a year.
Once the small intestine has done its work, food is pushed through to the large intestine. For the next couple of hours the last of the water is absorbed and billions of bacteria work to break down the last of the remaining contents. In the end anything we can’t digest gets flushed out of our bodies.
The complicated journey of food has a larger purpose. Once we’ve extracted what we need to feed the incredible machine and our engines are humming, it is nothing but astounding what we can do with it thanks to amazing contractions called muscles. From the soles of our feet to the tips of our fingers, 650 muscles- about 40% of our body mass, power every move we make. As our day pushes on, our skeletal muscles lift us through it usually without us thinking about it. Without them we cannot run, blink, smile or speak. Just muttering a single word involves muscles in the face, lips, tongue, jaw and throat. 34 muscles in the face are needed to deliver a kiss. Walking which we take for granted,requires 200 skeletal muscles. Back muscles keep you from falling forward and abdominal muscles keeps you from falling backwards. It takes 40 muscles just to raise one leg and move it forward. Add onto that running, shooting, riding and fencing and you get an idea of how many muscles are being used.
If we zoom into a muscle fibre we find 2 proteins, actin and myosin, and there action couldn’t be simpler. They link up squeezing together like cox on a wheel and then they relax releasing their grip and going back to normal. From binding and releasing all our skeletal muscles we get our every motion. The more we work our muscles the more actin and myosin we make and the bulkier are skeletal muscles become.
To lift a dumbbell your brain sends an electrical impulse down to your skeletal muscle telling the actin and myosin to bind and release. But for our muscles to work that signal from the brain must get through. Nerves to muscles are an intricate and delicate system and marvellous to behold. Follow any muscle to its base, to a bundle of strong flexible fibres called tendons, down to the very point where it is anchored and you will find one of the world’s most remarkable materials – bone.
Some 206 of these engineering marvels are strewed throughout the body. Strong enough to support up to 20 times our body weight, light enough to defy gravity however briefly, flexible enough to absorb impacts and connected in such a way to provide unseeingly endless range of movement. Bones are what give us our shape and it provides 15 percent of our body mass. Deep in the centre of many bones is this tissue called marrow. Some 20 million oxygen carrying red blood cells and 7 million micro fighting white blood cells are born every minute and shipped off to the rest of the body. Towards the surface specialised cells continually to lay down new bone while others whisk away layers of old bone. This is how we grow in our youth and how bone keeps itself strong in our adult life. Bone is made up of two substances and they are a match made in heaven. Without flexible collagen bone would be as brittle as glass. Without calcium phosphate it would be as unstructured as rubber. Together they are light enough to manoeuvre, strong enough to shelter our most delicate organs and resilient enough to last a life time.
The unsung heroes of all this movement are not our bones but what brings them together – ingenious devises called joints. From our knees to our knuckles some 187 separate joints allow our bones to slide back and forth, side to side, up and down, and also round and round like a well-oiled machine. Bones almost have a miraculous tendency to heal themselves but joints are prone to break down.
Billions of neurons are buzzing around in your head with all the nerve cells you will ever need. Throughout your childhood your neurons will reach out to other neurons in your brain to make connections with them through each new experience. With each connection your mind and body fuse to form the thing that is you, and at the helm of this, the most remarkable command centre in the world. All systems in the body are complex, but there is only one presiding over everything we do. The second your day begins your brain have been guiding, guarding giving orders defining nothing less than what you are. Through the information super highway of nerves fanning throughout our bodies our brain keeps tab of every part of us, eyes and ears, skin and bones, heart and muscles. A 100 billion specialised cells called neurons, millions of electrical and chemical signals move up to 200 miles per hour. This 3 pounds blob of fat and water let us think, feel, want, remember and act. Our brains set us apart from any other species and from one another. But thought, feeling and selfhood are fragile. Though it is only 2 percent of our body weight, the brain exhaust 20 percent of our oxygen. Unlike other cells in our body, when neurons get damaged they cannot be replaced.
From its surface to its core, amongst its billions of cells, road ways and circuitries, at the end of the day somehow all of these systems converge into one truly incredible design. Even while we sleep our bodies are always working, always breathing, always beating and always ready to begin another day.
Humans want more out of life than just simply to survive – We are built to thrive!