Skip to main content

Book 18 of 52: Healing Through Exercise

If you work out, you probably know this already: exercise makes you feel good.

In Healing through Exercise: A New Way to Prevent and Overcome Illness-and Lengthen Your Life (pub. date March), Jorg Blech explains why, culling together a lot of research about how exercise can heal and/or prevent everything from asthma to cancer to Alzheimer's to ADHD.

Blech starts by throwing the idea of "bed rest" right out the window. Resting doesn't always do a body good and can even slow or prevent healing. He writes at length about exercise and cancer, how patients undergoing chemotherapy can benefit from exercise.

Some of the research is obvious -- exercise can help throw back adult onset diabetes -- and others not so much. Who knew that relaxing after a heart attack is, according to a lot of research, not a good idea because it's better to build those muscles back up? And Blech isn't talking about heavy duty workouts here, either -- usually 30 minutes of walking or cycling five times a week.

I was most shocked by information about asthma. I had exercised induced asthma in high school, and used that and a torn ligament in my shoulder as reasons not to exercise in college and beyond.

But I run now and don't have issues with either (except when it's incredibly cold -- then I feel the asthma). Berg writes: "Children with asthma are often excluded from physical education and are encouraged to take it easy, which actually makes their troubles worse: Muscles waste away, which makes the children even less able to breathe properly, starting a vicious cycle. Regular moderate exercise would instead improve their bodies' resilience. Although the illness is not cured, people with asthma can become better at increasing the threshold for attacks, thereby avoiding them."

Interesting. I remember having some trouble with asthma when I started running three years ago, but I thought I'd grown out of it. My shoulder hurt, too, when I started, but that pain's mostly gone since I built up muscles in that area rather than leaving it be. I still hurt sometimes, but it's only a tenth of what I felt before.

Berg is harsh on pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, and even though I'm not really a fan of either, I think he goes to far. I interview doctors about research for work I do with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and they're interested in healing people any way they can -- especially the researchers trying to figure out why our bodies do what they do so they can prevent disease. Berg insinuates that all big pharma cares about is money, and holds many doctors in the same light. I just don't see that being the case. I'm also not convinced when he says that exercise can prevent cancer. Yes, there's a lot of evidence that it helps, but I there's so many other factors to consider in that equation.

Still, it's a book worth reading, or at least skimming, especially if you or someone you know could use a healthy dose of exercise in their lives. And it's interesting too, which isn't always easy to do in such a research heavy book. The book's been stuck in my head since I started reading on Thursday.

For fun, I put Blech's theory to the test. Well, it was more of a necessity. I'm writing this blog post from St. Pete Beach, Florida. I'm on the board of directors of the University of Tampa National Alumni Association. What a great excuse to get in some February beach time!

My first night in town, I'd stayed out late with a group of law students in town for a mock trial and dentists attending a conference (sorry, mom, I do talk to strangers, and it's fun). I woke up the next morning feeling sluggish and worn down. I closed my eyes and told myself to take it easy and go back to sleep, but that's not what Blech would do, so I got up and ran four miles.

And presto! I felt much better when I got back -- and a lot better than if I'd stayed in bed. I don't think it would have worked if I was hung over, but the workout helped me shake off the sleepies.

Blech has great things to say about running, too, which is something I worry about. I obviously love to run, but my mom's worried about its impact on my knees. I've seen a lot of senior runners out on the road between my 4 miles on Thursday and the 7.5 miles I did today. Blech writes: "And yet physicians traditionally thought older people would not have these capabilities. When older runners started attempting marathons, doctors and organizers wondered if they would need additional care. But these runners did just fine: older athletes can reach the finish line just a comfortably as younger ones."


I have one more day in Florida -- well, less than that since I'm leaving at 6am tomorrow. I wish I could have stayed longer. Wouldn't you if this was your view?

And you could walk to the Village Inn?


Popular posts from this blog

Welcome Back to Book a Week with Jen!

Hello hello! Yes, the rumors (that I started) are true. On New Year's Day, I fired up the old Book a Week with Jen blog, gave it a new domain, and I'm going to be writing about my reading habits once again. If you don't know me, my name is Jen A. Miller , and I'm a freelance writer and author. I've been freelancing now for 17 years, and in that time, have written hundreds of articles, three books ( two about the Jersey Shore and one about running ), and two ebooks ( both about freelance writing ). If you're not new around here, wow a lot has changed. I wrote a memoir , picked up a regular running column for the New York Times , and put that back down again. I ran a lot of marathons, and got into ultra marathoning, which lead me to run my first 24 hour race on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day 2020/2021 . My first dog, Emily, died in 2017 . I sold my first home, lived out of my car for a year traveling the country , scooped up a scruffy cattle dog mix in Ida

Book 5 of 52: Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen

I don't always try to match my reading to what I'm doing, but when I go to Florida, I try to pack at least one Florida weird book. There was no better novel to bring with me to read on a ferry from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park , than Carl Hiaasen's Stormy Weather . Hiaasen was writing about #floridaman before #floridaman was a thing (and when this - # - was the pound sign).  Stormy Weather is set in 1992 in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, which is still the most destructive hurricane to have ever hit Florida, and only one of four hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. still at Category 5 strength. According to the Miami Herald , Hurricane Andrew destroyed 63,000 homes and damaged another 101,241. Such disasters bring out the best in humanity but also the worst. F raud flowed into South Florida in Andrew's wake . That's where  Stormy Weather comes in. From an advertising executive who yanks his new wife away from their Walt Disney World honeymoon to r

Book 11 of 52: The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

In my travels, I've accumulated photos in what I call the "Plants Where They Shouldn't Be" series. They're of weeds, flowers and trees growing in places that look uncomfortable: poking out of lava that's OK to walk on but warm enough to generate steam, growing around a mile marker on the road, sprouting on the back of a parking sign - that kind of thing. On the cheesy side, they're reminders that we can flourish in the most unlikely circumstances. On a more realistic end, they show that humans are constantly battling back nature, and that someday we'll probably lose the fight. I thought about those photos when I read  book 8 of 52 Station Eleven  (and watched  the HBO Max adaptation ), which show a world without 99.99 percent of our current human population. The story focuses on people, of course, but set them in a world where the things humans have created - electricity, internet, buildings, bridges, roads - are being taken back by nature. A Jersey Sh