Star Wars gave us lasers, droids, and hyperspace. We learned of the continuing struggle between the Republic and the Empire and the importance of family and friendship. But in addition to all of the cool action and adventure Star Wars has much to teach us about living a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few health tips that I’ve gleaned throughout watching the films.
1. Stay active. Jabba The Hut sat around too much. And although financially powerful he was a bit of a wimp and easily taken down by a princess (not that a princess can’t be tough…I’m just saying). While being a couch potato can be fun every once in a while the risks far outweigh the benefits. Heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and just general weakness are all waiting in the wings for the sedentary.
2. Eat your veggies. Whether on their own, on sandwiches, or lightly steamed, vegetables and fruits are definitely on a Jedi’s plate. Studies show that a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables promotes a high midi-chlorian count. Or is it a strong immune system? Either way, it’s a good thing.
3. Water is good. They didn’t have moisture farms on Tatooine just for the fun of it. We’re made up of 60-70% water and it is vital for normal functioning. Contrary to popular belief the blue lightning from the Emperor’s fingers was not Dark Side derived, rather it was a consequence of dehydration resulting in a build up of uncontrolled electrostatic charge (trust me, you don’t want to be standing next to that guy on a floor with shag carpeting). But dehydration has other consequences as well: tight muscles causing back pain, neck pain, and headaches, harder working kidneys, and mental fatigue. So make sure to drink up and get the water that you need.
4. Put the “time” back in meal time. Fast food has become more than just a restaurant choice; it’s become a way of eating. But food should nourish more than just our caloric need. We should make the time to experience our food, its’ tastes, textures, and even the people we’re sharing it with. The Sarlacc is a model representative for taking the time to fully appreciate food and allowing one’s meal to digest (10,000 years should be sufficient).
5. Variety in exercise. Strength, agility, and cardio are all important components of physical fitness. Although all three are best developed simultaneously while running through a swamp with a green troll on your back, you may not always have such facilities at your disposal. When that’s the case you can always shake up your own routine by periodically substituting a bike ride for a run, or a swim for the weight room. Variety is the spice of life in galaxies far, far away as well as our own.
6. Take time to stretch. Think of sitting in front of the computer as the equivalent to mini episodes of being frozen in carbonite. Over time the tightness will build up and if you don’t shake things out regularly you’ll end up stumbling around like Han after being thawed. Get up from the computer/desk every 30 minutes or so. Pick one or two muscle groups and take them through their range of motion. It doesn’t take much, but it can make a big difference in keeping you feeling refreshed and productive throughout the day.
7. Relax. Obi-Wan Kenobi kept things in perspective and didn’t get all worked up when facing Darth Vader – in fact he became more powerful than Vader could possibly imagine. An over-stressed and over active mind can not only hamper thinking, it can can contribute to increased blood pressure and weight gain. Meditation, relaxation breathing, and yoga (not to be confused with Yoda) are all great ways to calm the mind and body and let the Force flow through you (as opposed to letting anger build up like the Dark Side would have you do. Oooh those Sith…they’re just so bad).
8. Know your limits but shoot for the stars. Even though the odds of successfully navigating that asteroid field were 3720 to 1, Han still knew it had to be done. We all know that the odds are often against us – that losing weight and keeping it off, or exercising regularly will be tough to maintain. But with some self-confidence and support from your Wookie (or friend/spouse) you can beat those odds and turn it into a reality.
9. Take time to rest and repair. If you are injured make sure to rest and rehabilitate the injury properly. Sure we don’t all have access to suspended scuba gear in clear acrylic walled hot water tanks like Luke did on Hoth, but following the R.I.C.E. principles (rest, ice, compress, elevate) can go a long way to reduce inflammation and speed the healing of minor injuries. As well, rest in the more general sense of the term, is also vitally important and a regular sleeping pattern encourages healthy day-to-day functioning. In fact Darth Vader was misunderstood when he told Luke “You underestimate the power of the Dark Side.” He was actually referring to a sector of the Death Star called the Dark side, a special low light sleeping dormitory adjacent to the Tropical Plants room.
10. Be proactive about prevention. Yoda was a very capable Jedi even in his later years. He understood the importance of a healthy body and a healthy mind. Try new things and challenge yourself. Keep learning and moving in order to stay active both mentally and physically. I’m hoping to be able to jump around just like that little green senior when I’m 865 years old.
We don’t yet have the technical mastery to seamlessly replace a fully functioning hand lost in a light saber fight. We’re not quite there when it comes to the finer points of using over-sized shiny black helmets for rehabilitation (you know it was shaped like that to prevent him from scratching at the stitches on his neck). But Star Wars has shown us that there are many simple and modifiable lifestyle factors that can help us live better, healthier lives. And I’ve only touched on some; if you have other insights and tips that you’d like to ad I’d love for you to leave a comment. How has Star Wars helped you with your health…?