Reactivity is the ease at which one engages with the environment. Ones reactivity is the primary determinant of ones whole physiology, which includes all of the parts like the joints, immune system, digestive system, etc. Reactivity is the primary quality that determines learning as well. If you want to improve any health or performance issue, unless you can learn to alternate your reactivity as described below, it makes no sense to look anywhere else.
During a soccer game, we play close attention to where everyone is and are ready to sprint to the ball, etc. Any team sporting event is a great example of high reactivity. A waitress is paying attention to all the customers peculiar needs, a teacher or parent keeping track of unpredictable children. Any crisis or even that requires an excited physiological state exemplifies high reactivity.
Low reactivity means no presumption of threat in the environment. A great example would be if you were going for a relaxing walk you would not notice things going on around you. If, however, a bee buzzed right by your ear it would get your attention. You didn’t have the presumption of a threat, but if any sound of moving object or injury occurred beyond a certain threshold it would get your attention. We just call this a mellow physiology.
Effect of Reactivity on Metabolism
When reactivity is high, especially the brain cells work much harder. In order to increase their rate of chemical production, they burn extra sugar. It is a much less efficient burn, with much more waste, but is absolutely necessary to perform. It cannot go on for very long however. The muscle cells are bound by the same law. You can run up a hill, but you cannot possible run up a hill all day. As reactivity increases, metabolism always shifts in the favor of burning sugar.
When reactivity is low, less sugar is driven into the brain cells. The cells still have to do some work, but now they have time to completely process the food into a clean burn. As much as 95% less sugar is used, and the brain can function at a sort of idle for 12 hours (as opposed to high intensity for minutes to an hour). It would be impossible to control metabolism if you were unable to control reactivity.
Effect of Reactivity on Immune System
The same central thermostat controlled by your reactivity controls your immune system. High reactivity means you are out and about in the elements, which means possible exposure to bugs and cuts. The innate immune system is activated which deals with any rapidly evolving threat. During times of lower reactivity the more specific immune system which involves B and T cell immunity now functions, which is designed to deal with more long-term threats like cancer and infections that are stored somewhere. As you would probably guess, the long-term immune cells are based more on an oxygen metabolism, while the emergency immune cells function more on a sugar metabolism. It would be impossible for it to be any other way.
Effect of Reactivity on Flexibility
Compare the long stride of an marathon runner with the short staggering rapidly accelerating steps of a football player. As you would predict, the hips on the marathon runner are flexible, and they are not on that football player. To take it a step further, imagine the difference in reactivity between the football player and person doing yoga. The effect of their reactivity is evident in the flexibility of their body. If the football player turned to yoga, it would improve the quality of his hips but would likely make adversely effect him as a football player. Every part of the body responds to reactivity in order perform in that environment. The most healthful sport, just like the most healthful day, would have periods of low and periods of high reactivity.
Effect of Reactivity on Energy
If I could give only one piece of advise for anyone trying to improve their health, it would to read, understand, and apply the simple concept presented here regarding the effect of reactivity on energy.
Think of a time when you are slightly bored and want a boost. You might decide to reach for caffeine, schedule some event, etc. You might even look for something to be irritated by or someone to blame, etc. There is a very good chance that what you are really doing is looking for a boost. You are simply putting yourself in a state of higher reactivity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but your physiology has to function predominantly in a more mellow state. As we get better at increasing reactivity, our cells get more tired, and it becomes harder and harder to function in a state of low reactivity. This is what we call deonditioning and is described in more detail below.
So what if you were, at least this one time, try to keep your reactivity at a 4 and still function? Maybe even eventually learn to function at a 3? Instead of trying to feel more peppy by increasing reactivity, is there a way to feel relaxed and energized at the same time? The easiest way involves physical activity. Instead of trying to focus even more, instead of convincing yourself there are so many important things to do right now, just go for a walk. Learn to get more comfortable being at a 4 instead of shooting up to a 7 in a panic. 80% of your day should be a 3 or 4, and paradoxically only in that scenario is it possible your you to have energy.
Generic Disease Due to Chronic Abuse of High Reactivity
The highly reactive physiology necessary to perform in an environment in which multiple precise things have to be juggled and controlled is one in which the body provides quick energy burning sugar of the absorbent cells. With training this system can become stronger, meaning the body can provide the sugar faster, and the cells can eat the sugar faster. However, when the body gets faster at providing the cells sugar, there is a greater chance that the cells will become overwhelmed with sugar, which is especially true when the body in inactive. Under such circumstances, parts of this system of providing sugar to the cells adjusts in the form of lower capacity which is described in the section on deconditioning. The end result of improper use of high reactivity is actually a diminished ability to achieve high reactivity.
however, the cells themselves sugar eating capabilities become emphasized, and the cells actually become dependent on a slightly higher proportion of sugar. Normally when cells receive a smaller amount of sugar, they still function in a more idle state. With tiny amounts of sugar, as long as oxygen is present, the cells can function at a lower rate (12 hours of being awake) before having to rest. However, because these cells have built up their sugar eating capabilities, but haven’t had as much training in the oxygen eating capacity, a higher degree of sugar is necessary just for them to be awake, In other words, a higher degree fo reactivity is required for these cells, in an this context we are talking more about brain cells.
So here is the gradual disease process that happens to most people. High reactivity is chosen by habit at the expense of low reactivity. With time, the physiological range between high and low reactivity narrows, making, on the one hand, it harder to achieve high reactivity, and on the other hand, inability to function at lower reactivity. The difference between these two extremes gradually narrows, and that is almost always the actual cause of death .
But it is also the cause of sleep problems, digestive problems, weak immune systems, auto immune diseases; the great majority of health issues people are seeking help for. Here is the generic story. Years of some combination of low activity/stress (high reactivity) lead to diminished range, followed by a more stressful season, forcing the brain to perform, leading to brain exhaustion, incapacitating the high reactivity system (think adrenal fatigue as an example); This withdrawal of stress hormones could also because the stressful event ended. This is where the problems show up. The system that had become dependent on high reactivity, suddenly crashes into low reactivity, which is much more dangerous than high reactivity because the system needs a certain amount of sugar (think brain cells maintaining their charge). The cells are now seriously threatened, and now an emergency stress reaction kicks in (think shock): This life saving very strong reaction can be in the form of the immune system, seizure, migraines are a more mild form. Most of the issues occur after a stressful event in a vulnerable physiology based on years of developing a more narrow physiology. This is all described from a slightly different angle in deconditioning.
generic treatment: the generic treatment is to actually strengthen both systems first by avoiding the deconditioning conditions, and emphasizing fitness, both in terms of power and endurance. developmentally power always comes before endurance, but in a deconditioned person the range is so narrow that the distinction between the two practically speaking does’ exist. A weight lifting program can be started, emphasizing mechanics, and gradually moving to circuit, gradually increasing rest as increasing weight. Another track could start with walking, moving to running ( or substituting cycling or swimming). Another way would be to b