Feb 12

“The Joy of Movement” and “Exercise Is Medicine”

Two books published recently on the benefits of physical exercise are The Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonigal and Exercise Is Medicine by Judy Foreman.

I. The Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonigal

“Among its many life-altering rewards: the generation of hope, happiness, a sense of purpose, greater life satisfaction and rewarding connections with others.” NPR, regarding The Joy of Movement: How exercise helps us find happiness, hope, connection, and courage.

Physical exercise isn’t just about losing weight or being fit or being athletic, maintains author Kelly McGonigal. Simply put, moving your body in various ways is better than not doing so. And it’s great not just for one’s body but also for one’s state of mind.

As reported by Megan O’Neill Melle in Parade, there are six mental benefits of exercise, paraphrased below:

  1. Stress-busting: Not eliminating stress, but improving one’s management of stress.
  2. Social connection: Due to certain brain chemicals released, moving along with others strengthens one’s ability to enjoy time with other people.
  3. It offers hope: “Hope molecules” inject healing properties.
  4. Brain boosting: For example, protection against Alzheimer’s and relief from depression.
  5. Increased happiness: In a phenomenon known as “collective joy,” there’s an increase in such things as optimism and social connection.
  6. It works with music: Music helps exercise to occur and links to memory in ways that help stimulate such feelings as “strength, energy, courage or happiness.”

II. Exercise Is Medicine by Judy Foreman

In Exercise Is Medicine: How Physical Activity Boosts Health and Slows Aging, health journalist Judy Foreman concludes that exercise is “by far the most effective, and safest, strategy for promoting a long, healthy life.” Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can be significantly improved, for example, via regular physical movement.

Publishers Weekly: “The penultimate chapter is especially helpful, covering topics such as what happens when one stops exercising, and the relationship between excessive weight and fitness, and beta-blockers and exercise. Throughout, Foreman includes ‘Inspirational Tales,’ research studies, and boxed sidebars covering chapter-related topics.”

A blog post of Foreman’s that’s particularly pertinent for those of us who sit while at work is the recently penned “Sitting Kills.” Opening sentence: “It’s not just that physical activity is good for you. It’s that a sedentary lifestyle, as a totally separate variable, is seriously bad.

Other excerpts:

Sitting too much  all by itself – can raise the risk of disease and premature mortality, even if you dutifully exercise.

If you want a short, sickly life, just sit there, for 13 hours a day, like the average American. (In Western countries overall, adults spend 55 to 70 percent of the day – 9 to 11 hours – just sitting.)

Replacing just two minutes of sitting every hour with a bit of moving around helps mitigate the risks of sitting. Better yet, don’t sit for more than 30 minutes at a stretch.

…“(S)edentary physiology” is now considered a separate field of research from the long-established field of “exercise physiology.”

…(P)hysical inactivity causes as many deaths a year globally as smoking.

Oct 15

“Eat Move Sleep”: Tom Rath Advises How to Get Healthier

Tom Rath, who’s written several bestsellers that address how we can change our behavior for the better, is just out with Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes. And he now admits the special reasons behind his obsession with healthy living. From his website:

While I’ve been reluctant to share this before, I have been battling cancer for the past 20 years. I have a rare genetic disorder that has led to cancer in my eye, kidney, pancreas, adrenal glands, and spine. In order to stay ahead of my condition, I review hundreds of studies every month to figure out how I can slow the growth of new tumors and spread of existing cancers. What I learned, not only about how to prevent cancer, but also how to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and obesity – is remarkably encouraging.

Rath also reveals a few significant principles learned while preparing this book:

  1. There are “hundreds” of steps that can help us achieve our health-oriented goals.
  2. It’s easier to work on eating, moving, and sleeping all at the same time than just tackling one of the three in isolation.
  3. Knowing we need to do self-improvement isn’t enough. “More practical short-term incentives” are what actually kick us into gear.

Let’s cut to the chase: what are some of the main things we can do to achieve better health? Rath tells Dan Schawbel, Forbes, three of his top tips:

1. Stop jumping from one diet to the next and focus on eating right for life.

2. Build movement and activity into every hour of your day. Aim for 10,000 steps a day.

3. Get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night to stay sharp and achieve more.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t even sound new. Then why do so many of us fall short?

Well, take therapists as an example. We typically don’t move for almost an hour at a time. We sit. Unfortunately, sitting is the new smoking, they now say. That means sitting is now deemed an occupational hazard. (See my previous post, “Therapists–and Others–Who Sit Too Much.”)

But what about my almost daily exercise routine? I and others might ask.

Not good enough to make up for all that sitting, say the experts. Get moving more often throughout your day.

Really? Easy for you to say.

Below, directly from his table of contents, are some other of Rath’s thoughts, in the form of nifty phrases, that represent desirable values. Some are self-explanatory; some might stimulate curiosity for reading the book.

  • Sugar is the next nicotine.
  • Judge food by the color of its skin.
  • Quality beats quantity in bed.
  • Wear a new pair of genes.
  • Move early for a better mood.
  • The danger of desktop dining.
  • Be cold in bed.
  • Try exercise before sleeping pills.
  • Organic does not equal healthy.
  • Feast at sunrise, starve at sunset.
  • Television shortens your lifespan.
  • Sleeping in only sounds good.
  • Broccoli is the new black.
  • Stick with coffee, tea, and water.
  • Put activity before exercise.

Unsure about buying the book? The website has a lot of useful and free info, including a 10-minute survey that leads to getting your own personal 30-day plan. Immediately.

Selected Reviews

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness: “Tom Rath has successfully written the operating code for human health. Reading Eat Move Sleep should be as mandatory as health insurance.”

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: “A wonderful book you can’t stop reading. Your health I.Q. will never be the same.”

Ori Brafman, author: “Backed by science and filled with heart, Eat Move Sleep is the best self-improvement book I’ve ever read.”