|TIMES COLONIST * SATURDAY APRIL 3 2004
Keith Jeffery's four-minute
program of simple exercises mixes tai chi, qigong, brain science, physics and positive
Four Minutes to Fitness
Five Exercises that can improve your physical and mental health
By KATHERINE DEDYNA
Retired Nanoose Bay veterinarian Keith Jeffery runs about 15 kilometers a week, walks, exercises regularly with weights and an elliptical trainer, plays golf and practices tai chi religiously. But the indispensable workout in his life, and the one he makes a good living from these days -- is called 4-Minute Fitness.
Not meant to replace other forms of physical activity, this is a mind-body quickie regime that mingles tai chi, yoga, breathing, qui gong, brain science, physics and positive thinking and forms a touchstone for his overall sense of wellness. And he's taught it to thousands of other people in businesses, recreation centers, military schools, professional conferences and video.
In the past few years, 4-Minute Fitness has taken the 53-year-old Jeffery and his social worker wife, Krisanna, all over North America and the Far East on teaching expeditions. Just back from a major teach-in via the U.S. Department of Defense in Tokyo and Okinawa, he'll be offering a session Tuesday at the Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt.
Practiced regularly, he says 4-Minute Fitness can translate into "the most powerful exercises you've ever done.'' It's anything but frenetic, requires no special clothing, nothing but your own body and can be done just about anytime, anywhere, standing or seated.The five simple exercises are done easily, incorporating tenets of positive thinking and mind power used by professional athletes getting pumped, and visualizing what they want to happen.
Jeffery, a member of the advisory board of the American Tai Chi Association and an experienced teacher, no longer bothers to teach hundreds of moves. Instead, he has combined his 25 years of knowledge into a few simple moves.
Four minutes a day doesn't sound like much, but it works out to more than three working days a year -- a whole lot of mind and body focus."I always joke, it sort of represents everything I learned in the 20 years prior to that. Either I didn't learn very much or there's a lot in it.''
He prefers the latter definition. "We work almost every muscle and almost every joint, but slowly and gently. When you squat down and you come up very slowly, you get 10 times more leg value than if you come up more quickly.
"I add breathing because I really think deep breathing is so powerful.''
Proper breathing, which most of us do not know how to do (in through the nose, out through the mouth) amounts to unconscious pushups for the respiratory system that can do everything from aid digestion to control anxiety. The rest of the workout can improve flexibility, balance, energy and attitude, he says.
Almost everyone thinks their balance diminishes as they age, but almost no one does anything about it. "Balance only gets better if you practice it,'' he says. And one of his exercises has people hold their hips and head still -- "a key secret of tai chi practice" -- and turn the shoulders, allowing them to rotate almost every vertebrae in the back.
His Web site (www.4minutefitness.com) touts everything from hypertension to poor circulation, migraine and irritable bowel syndrome that may be helped by gentle exercise and deep breathing.
His transformation from veterinary medicine came about when he was doing tai chi on the beach one day 12 years ago. "All of a sudden, the whole concept just came into my mind,'' he recalls. That was in the mid-1990s and he subsequently took it all over North America, releasing an hour-long video in 2000.
Along with his other video, Tai Chi For Busy People -- a five-minute session -- he has sold about 25,000 copies at $30 apiece, many through the Reader's Digest.
A year ago February, he addressed 1,500 teachers and support staff in one month.
Relatively unheralded close to home, people thousands of miles away get excited about his program. One of them is Dr. Nancy Bresell, Ph.D, director of the U.S. Department of Defense Dependents Schools for the Pacific region. She first met Jeffery while vacationing on Vancouver Island and pursuing her interest in tai chi with him. She thought his 4-Minute Fitness approach had merit and could dovetail with the need for approaches to wellness and stress release by time-pressed leaders in her organization, which employs about 3,000 people and is responsible for 26,000 pupils.
In the past two-and-a-half years, Jeffery has worked with almost 100 principals and assistant principals, 300 employees in Guam, 100 employees in Okinawa, as well as hundreds of students, and provided additional training for staff and teachers, she estimates.
"While we are not in the military, we work with the military. Keith's work was incredibly well-received,'' she says in an e-mail.
Bresell regularly practices both tai chi and 4-Minute Fitness.
The mind also gets a mini overhaul under Jeffery's system.
What people put their attention on tends to be what they get, so focus on the bright side, says the preternaturally positive father of twin boys and stepfather to another -- all age 20.
Assuming a posture of depression can lead to just that, while a confident body position can make people feel on top of the world. Focusing on past failures is no different than an athlete trying to psyche himself up for the big game by reliving his biggest gaffe. Professional athletes pump their fists into the air to increase their energy and feel good about themselves in order to earn their million-plus salaries.
The rest of us can repeat 'I love you' or "I am safe" or look up and smile to release healing neurochemicals that will surround the brain, reduce pain and make us feel better, he says. Life isn't always fair but concentrate on all you have to be grateful for, whether it's the beauty of a sunset or a smile."
I'm so passionate about the mind aspect of this,'' he says. By focusing on what they want, he says people hone their body's "reticular activating system'' -- a brain filter that lets us ignore most stimuli around us but still hear our names spoken at a noisy party.
Power phrases and loving affirmations set it positively when often we've unconsciously set it negatively.
"Every day, make a conscious effort to focus on all the beauty, wonder, joy and opportunity in your life, then your reticular activating system will support that thought.''
He cites the example that recently came from the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, where 10 volunteers did mental biceps curls five times a week and increased their biceps by 13 per cent.
Click here to view an Evening News Video Clip of this 4 Minute Fitness event.
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