Everything in moderation including moderation was the order of the day at the Christmas Café. The second annual Christmas café hosted by LJMU at Liverpool Central library.
Professor Harry Sumnall, discussed the pleasure substance use can offer, and why public policy needs to represent the voice of the substance user. Professor Joe Moran spoke from the heart, on the topic of shyness. And while Professor Keith George extoled the virtues of exercise he cautioned against overdoing it.
Professor Sumnall introduced his talk, entitled, The Road to Excess: Intoxication, Celebration and the Pursuit of Pleasure, with a look at the calorie and alcohol consumption of Father Christmas as he visits the UK on December 25th. He spoke of substance use rather than substance misuse and highlighted the differing attitudes towards alcohol consumption and drug use. Socially acceptable, even embraced alcohol consumption is regularly glamorised and advertised while images of drug use are typically negative and disapproving.
Yet the reality of drug use is quite far removed from these stereotypes; 30% of the population have used cannabis, 10% cocaine, and 10% heroin. Unsurprisingly the reasons people try drugs are varied and complex, but often experimentation is the lure. Professor Sumnall proposed we speak about drug use in the same way we speak about other acceptable vices and pondered the difference this normalisation would make.
He highlighted a huge gap in drug policy making, namely that the views and experiences of drug users are not taken in to account. The pleasure people experience when taking illegal substances is discounted and the non-health benefits of drugs are considered non-existent. Dr. Sumnall argued that a lot can be learned from alcohol policy and that if we want drugs policy to be effective it needs to reflect reality.
Next up Professor Joe Moran questioned the benefits of shyness in his talk A Tentative History of Shyness. Shy by name – shy by nature it seems even in literature shyness is elusive! Evading conventional categories and only appearing in passing.
Charles Darwin considered shyness an accidental by-product. He was also very interested in blushing and described it as ‘the most peculiar and the most human of expressions’. The theory of evolution, speaks of nature as a beautiful and glorious mess. It argues that anything that does not fail is fine and there are many million solutions to the problem of being alive. And shyness in turn is just one of these solutions.
Professor Moran introduced us to the work of Goffmann in Unst and also to Sacks. Describing their observations and the questions their theories raised. He concluded that shyness is a piece of the jigsaw that is human diversity. An import chapter in the story of being human. And while we are social animals we are also self-contained consciousness’s. Without shy people the world would be less interesting and less creative.
Our third and final speaker for the afternoon was Professor Keith George, who reminded us that exercise is good for you, regular moderate exercise helps reduce blood pressure, moderate cholesterol, reduce inflammation and improve cardiac function. He asked the question: Is Too Much Exercise Bad for You? What happens if you exercise excessively? And is exercise still healthy at extreme levels?
In 2012 professional footballer Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest while playing for Bolton Wanderers. His heart stopped for 78 minutes. On the other side of the world, instances of world champion, Iron Man athletes having defibrillators fitted to offset life threatening events have been reported. The media takes a huge interest in such stories and the concept of exercise having limits. Is this interest justified?
Using specialist equipment Professor George and his team examined the cardiac function of 3 groups of runners immediately after intensive exercise. Looking at competitors of the Comrades Marathon in South Africa (90 KM road race), the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in California and the London Marathon. After all events, test results showed a number of athletes had experienced heart fatigue and as a result their heart was not working normally. The athletes tested were not having a heart attack, but something significant was happening as a result of undertaking extreme exercise.
Unlike other muscles the heart cannot be rested after strenuous or prolonged exercise. Professor George summarised that, when we exercise to this level we are fatiguing and damaging the heart. The short and long term significance of this remains unknown. However, if it was a significant concern we would see more people presenting at hospital. For some people, with pre-existing conditions, maybe these levels of exercise go beyond what is good for them.
So in summary, even Father Christmas is partial to the odd tipple at Christmas, shy people help the world go round and don’t overdo it on the exercising this new year.