Archives for August 2010

Give Your Brain Some Exercise

book Spark! How Exercise Will Improve the Performance of Your BrainA while back I read a book that changed the way I think about exercise. The book is “Spark! How exercise will improve the performance of your brain” by Dr John Ratey and Eric Hagerman.

“Everyone” knows exercise improves your cardiovascular fitness, helps you lose weight and protects you from many illnesses like heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer and diabetes. If you have read health-related articles, you may also be aware that exercise is nowadays a recommended treatment for depression.

What I did not understand, is how important exercise actually is for the optimal functioning of your brain and for your overall wellbeing. It appears that physical activity is a kind of cure-all for human ailments.

John Ratey has put together lots of recent research about brain and physical activity and writes about them in a way that is relevant and accessible to a layman. The book has chapters dedicated to learning, stress, anxiety, depression, add, hormonal changes, addiction and aging.

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How To Heal A Runner’s Knee?

Holding a kneeI think I mentioned somewhere that I suffer from a runner’s knee, also called patella femoral pain syndrome (pfps for short). (I I haven’t actually run for ages.)

My left knee is perhaps the biggest factor preventing me from working out and losing weight at the moment. For a long time I have been at a loss what to do with my knee, but at the moment I’m cautiously optimistic I’m not going to suffer from runner’s knee for the rest of my life.

Because my insurance does not cover physical therapy, I decided I’m going to figure out how to heal runner’s knee on my own (that happened last fall). I surfed the internet, read articles, browsed anatomy pictures and searched Youtube for exercises I could do to rehabilitate my knee. I devised my own rehabilitation program which I did more or less dutifully for a couple of months.

I was in for a big disappointment when I bought an expensive fitness program in March which I planned to use to get back in shape.  I wasn’t able to do most of the movements without aggravating the pain in my left patella. So I gave up, got mad, depressed and eventually stopped exercising completely. Naturally, I put on more weight. 🙂


By chance I found and purchased an exercise program for treating pfps devised by Bart Anderson. I have now done the program for about 2,5 months (I had a three week break in the middle) and I’m finally seeing some progress. In the last few weeks I have been able to do two long Nordic walks a week! If everything goes well, in a few weeks I’m going to give a second try to that fitness program I bought in March.

According to conventional wisdom, the best treatment for patella femoral pain syndrome is to strengthen weak quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh.

According to Bart Anderson, pfps is caused by problems with the hips. Instead of focusing on quadriceps muscles, you should focus your efforts on improving the motor control of your hips, strengthening weak muscles like gluteus medius and stretching tight muscles (often hamstrings). So no wonder why my leg lifts produced no results!


The pain in my left knee is definitely not gone yet, but now I’m at least able to see light at the end of the tunnel (I know what you are thinking!).  If I’m lucky, I’m able to start that fitness program soon, even though I probably have to adapt the movements to be able to follow the program at all.

If you suffer from knee problems yourself, I suggest you check Bart Anderson’s guide on how to heal runner’s knee yourself.



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P.S. You may also want to check my continuation post How To Heal A Runner’s Knee.

Towards relaxed eating – part 2

When I first started writing this post I intended to write about what and how and how much you should eat so that you could best lose weight and stay healthy. But in the middle of writing I just realized that I’m not at all interested in writing that kind of post. I’m not a health and weight loss expert: diet and nutrition books exist so you can consult them if you feel like that!

Friends drinking chocolate

Friends drinking chocolate

I’m interested in how I can create my personal eating and exercising habits that allow me to stay in normal weight while enjoying both eating and good health. I chose the photo in this post because it portrays what I strive for.

My guiding principles are (relative) ease and fun and wellbeing. When I test some new dish, behaviour or form of exercise, I’ll ask myself: Is this fun? Does this fit in my life? How long am I able to keep this up? Can I modify this so that it suits my life even better without losing the benefits? How does this make me feel?

Does this mean that the road ahead is completely effortless? Probably not. I still need to watch what I eat and be willing to admit if I’m getting nowhere with this approach.

Off to have some fun now! 😀