Sweat the blues

Can exercise really help us beat the blues?

I came across an interesting article on one of my favorite Danish news sites Fri.dk called “Can exercise prevent depression”?

A research study done by The Danish National Institute of Public Health points out that exercise can have an effective preventive effect on depression.

There is no doubt that exercise can help us when we are feeling the blues, but prevent depression? This is what the article said:

4 hours light exercise or 2 hours hard exercise a week

The Danish study confirms what we already know, that exercise is good for us physically, and that exercise plays a major role in our emotional health, but it also showed that exercise may  have a preventive effect on depression!

The research was done with 18.000 Danes between 18-99 years of age, both answering questions sheets and undergoing blood tests during a 26 year period.

The results showed that, especially in women, there was a preventive effect in the occurrence of depression, by doing regular exercise.

Women who were either physical inactive or exercised less than 2 hours had 1.8 times higher risk of developing depression than the women who were exercising a lot. The “exercising a lot” criteria in the study was, light exercise more than 4 hours or more than 2 hours heavy exercise a week.

The research points (not surprisingly) to have the same beneficial effect for men, but then there was not as many depressive men participating in the study.

The research discussed whether  it is simply exercise that has a preventive effect. They, therefore, also studied people who were physically active during their work day, for example in the postal services, but the research clearly showed that the physical exercise has to be done in free time. Work related “exercise”  had no effect on depression!  So something points to the fact that it is not the physical activity in itself that has the effect, it is important that it is part of free time and maybe there also is a social component.

I think this affirms that health does not happen in isolation – balanced living and happy health – means many things, among them are: getting regular exercise, nourishing our bodies with good food, embracing (all) emotions, having healthy relationships at work and privately, etc. And remember, depression can be a healthy response to something not right in our lives. No matter how much we run, we still need to attend to the underlying emotions and consult our heart – the old saying is true, we cannot run from our problems.

“Being entirely honest with oneself is good exercise”- Sigmund Freud

I think the social component in exercise plays a big and important role in preventing depression. We get out, we meet people and often we have great conversation during exercise, we solve the worlds problems as we go. We connect in a special way with people we exercise with. We set goals together, we sweat together, we laugh and cry together, we stretch ourselves together, we go beyond, we celebrate successes and support each other, we encourage each other, we share together. These aspects have the power to heal us, make us feel better, and prevent depression from occurring.

“The greatest wealth is health “ – Virgil

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health” – Hippocrates

Earlier blog posts on exercise:

Muscles reward exercise

Make running part of your life – for good.

Getting into the great habit

Want to live longer? Jog a bit

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Make running part of your life – for good

Jogging is such a perfect way to unwind, relax your mind, and recharge the body. It is impossible to go out for a run and return back, grumpy – it’s simply, not possible. Jogging is an excellent mood enhancer, it works every time! Professionally, it is often a part of the treatment for depression and stress.

Jogging is also a great way to solve problems and ignite your creative juices. Feeling empty or stuck with a problem? Get changed, put on the old running shoes and hit the road. Chances are that the problem will solve itself as you run – all of a sudden you can see things in a new perspective and find a solution.

Running/jogging is a great way to get some “you time” – away from it all.

I am sure most of us will agree that jogging is good for us, but many will also agree with me that it is really hard to actually establish the routine of running, several times a week, every week, every month, every year, year after year.

I see too many people out there looking as though they are not enjoying it at all – pressuring themselves way too hard, beyond healthy, looking stressed, in pain almost – running is just another thing on the to-do-list.

Considering running as a chore is stressful, no fun and you are much more likely to injure yourself ! I’m quite sure that running this way is not healthy either!

I have been a jogger, on an off, my whole life – but it is not until 2 years ago, that I have actually become a faithful runner and I couldn’t live without it!

While out running the other day, I was thinking “how did it happen?”.  For years, I had been an on-and-off runner, usually running  2-3 K max two or three times a week. I would be doing this for some months and then the “monkey mind” would finally convince me I didn’t need it any longer. Then I would stop for a couple of months, till I finally got a grip on my self and started all over again. I did not enjoy it, I forced myself and I actually hated it! I also got injured from running again and again, my knees would bother me, then one foot would become sore with plantar fasciitis, and I would stop, again!

This is how I did it

I was told about Jeff Galloway’s Run -Walk -Run program and that changed everything for me

Jeff Galloway is my hero – he taught me all I needed to know to motivate me to hit the road and keep running.

Galloway is an American Olympian and after many injuries he invented his “Run-Walk-Run” method that has inspired thousands to start running and keep at it. He is the author of many books – he even wrote a book called “Running until you’re 100”!  His message is clear – anyone can run!

By adding more walks in to your runs you:

  • Run injury free
  • your muscles recover faster after each run
  • you gently but surely improve your capability
  • you listen to your body
  • your runs are stress free
  • your runs are enjoyable
  • you feel the improvement week after week

I swear by Galloway’s program. It fits perfect with my philosophy that we have to listen to the body and do mindful running.

This is how I got started, inspired by Galloway:

  •  Run-walk-run, every other day – so for example Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday is your, run-walk-run days
  •  30 min every time
  • Then Mondays – Wednesdays – Fridays,  are walk days – 30 min.
  • Saturdays, a longer run – by doing this, you really improve! You will feel that your usual 30 min run-walk-run becomes a piece of cake – a run in the park 🙂
  • Sunday is rest day – important to have this!
  • Try to get out the same time, every day – to create a routine.
  • Find a running buddy – it is always easier if you know someone is waiting for you out there.
  • Make time – wake up an hour early, for example. Do you know how beautiful it is outside early in the morning? (see this)

In the beginning I was walking a lot more than I was running. To be totally honest with you I could not run 10 steps without being out of breath. As I kept to the program, each time I could run a little longer. It doesn’t matter, as long as we get out – that is the most important.

By following this program you will very quickly, feel improvement. Make sure you can always carry on a conversation without huffing and puffing. Take it easy – AND put in as many walk breaks as you need. Who cares?

I love Oscar Wilde’s philosophical quote:- Life is too important to be taken seriously! This is true when it comes to running too!

Get out, have fun and above all enjoy your run!!

Links to Jeff Galloway’s website and books;

Jeff Galloway

Running, getting started

Running until you’re 100

Resetting the body-clock

A whole week on plant-based foods! Plant-wild week check it out here

  • I feel  full of energy
  • I lost 2 1/2 kg
  • my skin feels healthy
  • my eyes are clear
  • I feel in balance/content
  • my runs are easier – I run for longer without feeling the need to stop
  • cravings for unhealthy foods ceased

2 years ago I would never have believed that food matters so much! I knew that I had to eat fruits and vegetables and that it was supposed to be good for me, but I had no idea it could change my life the way it has!

For those, who are new to this blog  – I was suffering desperately from Meniere’s disease, I had terribly high cholesterol and I had put on 17 kg! I felt dreadful and did not have the will-power to do anything about it, I felt stuck!

Food changed all of that! I added green smoothies to my diet and got more energy, started to crave more green food and craved less of all the things that were not good for me. I started to run and I started to exchange some of my meals for plant-based meals. Sometimes, I would do whole days on plant-based foods – eventually eating only plant-based food from Monday to Friday, every now and then. I changed the balance of what I ate, so that I had much more fruits and vegetables, nuts, and grains, than meat and dairy. Nourishing and feeding my body – rather than filling myself up. This past week I tried an only-plant-based week and it was great.

Eating more plant-based has been like resetting my clock. Now I don’t feel hungry all the time, I feel nourished and satisfied. I no longer feel the need to fill my plate 3 times, at every meal.

I used to live to eat and I still do, but not in the same way!

I am mostly plant-based and I enjoy adding delicious fish or meat to my meals, but not with every meal. I also enjoy creme brulee and fabulous cheeses, but not with every meal.

I believe that the high cholesterol, Meniere’s disease and the 17 kg over-weight, was my body’s way of “telling” me, there was an imbalance  – something needed to change.

Today my Meniere’s disease is gone, my cholesterol is normal without medication,  I have lost 19 kg, I feel better and fitter than ever before!

This week has been like giving my body a holiday, spoiling it with foods that supports it, feeds it, and nourishes every cell.

My family supported me all the way – not everyone was plant-based all week, but I am proud of them for what they did! Loving that they tried, exchanging the majority of their meals with plant-based foods and for being so open to try. Changes do not happen over night – it happens by taking one healthy step at a time.

Getting into the great habit

Developing new habits to help balanced living, can be a big challenge. The norm is that it takes 21 days to create a new habit.  Over the past 2 years, I have nurtured and created new habits and have been successful with maintaining them. Looking back, I can see that there were some important factors that were essential to my success.

Developing good balanced-living habits:

1. Create time – don’t wait for time, take time.

2. Make good routines – Do the new endeavour in the same way and at the same time – the same thing – at the same time – every time. It is easier to create a habit if you make it a routine, for example do the same time every time i.e., running in the morning, mediating from 7 -7:15, etc. Especially in the beginning as the habit is forming – you will be motivated by the great feeling it gives you. You feel how good it is for you and will fall into the rhythm of doing it, because you want more of that feeling.

3. Keep at it – the more that you do it , the easier it is, so do it again, and again, and again, – you are creating new little paths in the brain that eventually turn into new highways. Every time you do it, it becomes easier.

The biggest challenge though, when it comes to creating a new habit, is in the mind. The “monkey mind” I call it. The one that will tell you that you do not need to go for a run right now, it is too early, you are too tired, it is raining, it is cold, you are too busy and tomorrow will be much better. It will continue telling you that you are much better off without and it will, if you allow it, convince you that, yes indeed, mañana, will, of course, be much better.

The problem is that if we let ourselves be seduced by the “monkey mind”- days will go without running, meditating, writing that book, losing the weight, stopping smoking, dancing, taking care of ourselves – or whatever the goal is, days will pass, months will pass, years may pass, a lifetime may pass!

So how to turn off the “monkey mind” and get over the upstart to our jogging, meditating, writing? We can’t turn it off,  but the less we listen to it, the less obnoxious it is .

First of all – the “monkey mind” never tells the truth, so by starting to realize that we are being fooled and conned by the a lying “monkey mind” – is the key. Starting to observe the messages and ask if this is really truth, is an important first step.

Monkey mind : This is way too early, turn off that alarm clock immediately, this has to be a joke !

You: Right it is early, but I will be grateful that I got up to run.

Monkey mind: Hey common – you can’t be serious, feel the warmth of the bed, close your sweet little eyes and dream.

You: Okay, I hear you are really tired and maybe we can nap in the afternoon.

Monkey mind: No no no – now is better, much better and apart from that it is cold and dreadful out there and by the way, you are too old to start running, you don’t need this!

You: I know what you are up to – and it sounds good, but I need my run, that is the truth, so I am off, tired, old and all.

When I wake up having planned an early morning run at 7 am – I can assure you that the “monkey mind” is there, trying every dirty trick in the box, to get me to stay in my warm bed and take another hour or two snoozing. So I am aware – and I know what is coming.

I have tried it so many times that I know that going out there running will benefit me in so many ways that I tell the “monkey mind” – “thanks for your input I’m off running anyway, buddy” – I know by now, that the run will do me so much good and I will love myself for doing it later, so I do it!

Other times I will follow a trick from Jeff Galloway the former Olympic runner, and say ‘ okay I hear you, you are so tired and all we will do this morning is, put the shoes on and run to the end of the drive”! But by the time I reach the end of the drive, I have smelled the fresh morning air, felt the air on my skin, and the sun on my face, and the “monkey mind” is forgotten and I am out there enjoying the run.

“Good habits, once established are just as hard to break as are bad habits” Robert Puller

Muscles reward exercise

I found this very interesting interview with Professor Dr. Med Bente Klarlund Pedersen in one of the Danish newspapers, Politiken (the Danish Article).

Professor (Dr. Med.) Bente Klarlund Pedersen is the director of Copenhagen Muscle Research Center and her focus is on inflammation and metabolism(CIM)

Her results are very interesting to us looking to improve health and balance our lives. For example, her early research has shown that there is a connection between physical activity and the immune system.

She shows that our muscles are not alone making us capable of moving around, but work similarly to other organs producing hormone-like compounds – important for our overall health. She has shown that muscles work like vital organs setting “turbo-on” conversion of sugar and fat during exercise.

Another really interesting point that Dr. Klarlund has found is that in people who are not physically active, not only do their muscles deteriorate, but lack of exercise also makes them more prone to diabetes, heart disease, dementia, cancer, osteoporosis and depression. She is focusing her research to find out how inactivity can be connected to so many different lifestyle diseases.

Her basis research shows that muscles not only get messages from the nerves, but also communicate through many hormone-like compounds. Thus, muscles work like organs. Some of their research experiments with people paralyzed from the neck and down showed that by stimulating their muscles, they could achieve the same positive effects as if they had been exercising! Their bodies burned sugar and fat and they could even experience “Runner’s high” even though they were paralyzed and not physical active in any way.

In another experiment, they asked a group of people to limit their activities to walk a maximum of 1.500 steps a day – where 10.000 steps would be the norm. The results showed that lots of things happened – for example, they lost 1.2 kg muscle mass. They became insulin resistant which is the stage before diabetes. When they consumed fat, the fat remained longer in the body and built up around the inner organs – in just 2 weeks!!!

Her own 2 sons were part of the study and she explains how they, during the research, became irritable and short-fused. This gave her the idea to the next study she did. She teamed up with Neorospychologists to research how peoples’ focus and ability to concentrate changed when they didn’t get exercise. They are still collecting data but preliminary results show, as they expected, that it is more difficult to concentrate and focus when we do not exercise.

Professor Dr. Bente Klarlund Pedersen recommends a minimum of 1/2 hr of exercise every day. Some of her new research also points out that exercising helps to keep muscles stay younger for longer.

I find her research interesting on so many levels –  when it comes to preventing disease, how exercise affects our levels of concentration and our performance. I  find it fascinating to read about research on how exercise affects our emotional health and well-being.

Dr. Pedersen is currently researching marathon runners – she says she is fascinated by the extremes – to find the difference in the people who exercise a lot – and the people who do little or no exercise.

It is exciting to see what comes of her research.

Morning run in the clear blue

The weather here on the west coast of  Canada has been grey, cold and rainy all winter so many of my morning runs have been in pouring rain. But, I don’t mind, I actually think it has its charms – the freshness and the coolness of the air is invigorating. But…I must admit that it is much more fun when the sun is shining and the sea is calm — like this morning!  I hit the road at 7 am with my friend and running partner – and as we solve the world’s problems as we run, I always return with a light heart and a smile on my face.

 

The Olympic Mountains (USA) in the background. Amazing clear blue sky.

This arrangement made me laugh!

By the lighthouse at the end of the pier.

You can walk on the side of the pier on these impressive stones.

The lighthouse in its full beauty.

The pier – not protected by anything – which is quite amazing considering. It gives me a sense of freedom as I head out to the lighthouse.

Beautiful wild flowers and grass – I adore that everything is natural and allowed to be wild.

Mr. Jonathan Livingstone Seagull

The sea is as clam as my soul after a good run.

Hope you have a great Saturday !

Meniere’s Disease – My way out

Yesterday someone told me her dad had been diagnosed with Meniere’s disease.  I was reminded and felt so sad for the dad, having been there myself.

According to statistics 3-5 million people suffer from Meniere’s disease in the United States alone. 100.000 new cases are diagnosed every day!

Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that affects the balance and hearing. Fluid accumulates in the inner ear and creates a pressure that affects the balance. Usually only one ear is affected.

Let me rewind and go 3 years back. I had been in Europe visiting my family in Denmark and on our way back we had a stop in Paris. We booked in to our hotel and decided to go down to the a little cozy restaurant, just around the corner. There we were totally excited that we were together in beautiful Paris! We ordered some food and a glass of wine. The next thing I knew was, that I thought I was having a heart attack. It came out of the blue, happened instantly and it was something I had never ever tried in my entire life before. I was terrified to say the least. The whole world was spinning, I could not walk, I had cold sweat and I felt sick as a dog. All kinds of things were going through my mind, it was THE most scary thing I had ever experienced.

My family almost carried me out and the waitress was told we would not be having dinner. The family took me up stairs to the hotel room where I collapsed on the bathroom floor and was sick for hours – it took 2-3 hours before the spinning stopped and I could crawl in to bed, completely exhausted.

The next day I was exhausted and thought that perhaps it had been a bad case of food poisoning – even though I have never reacted like that to food poisoning before.

Back in Canada – 2 months later. I am doing my usual things and all of a sudden “IT ” happens again – out of the blue, no warning signs  – cold sweat, spinning and sick as a dog – it is not just dizzy, it is spinning like crazy. This time I think – “What is happening to me???” I am totally defeated – on the floor, not able to do anything – sick sick sick, again!!! The same things happen,  2-3 hrs before I  exhaustively can climb in to bed and fall asleep. Even 2 days after an attack I am really tired and worn out.

Between the attacks I notice that I have a “fullness” in one ear,  a pressure and my hearing is bad.

At this point I am still not connecting the dots – I think I am in denial.

A dear friend of mine who is a nurse – says to me “Next time you get it, go to emergency while you are having the attack!”

A month later – it happens again – and with the family’s help I manage to get to the doctor’s office – while the world is spinning.

He says – “I think you have Meniere’s disease – but I want you to have a brain scan to make sure it is not a tumor”.  I crawl back out of his office and I am devastated!! What has happened to my life? I cannot believe it.  Is it a tumor? If not, then what – do I have to live with this and how do I do that??

I did not have a tumor, thank God! – “only” Meniere’s disease  – the specialist said “We don’t know exactly what causes it. There is no cure and you will have to live with it. Be careful about your sodium intake,  caffeine and alcohol. See you in 2 months”. This goes on for the next year with more scary attacks.

I have never heard about Meniere’s disease before. All the information I found online was “Bad” news – no cure, stories of how people have become house bound having these scary attacks all the time, stories about how your hearing is badly affected every time you have an attack. Stories of people giving up work – not even being able to drive!! I was terrified and I was anxious most of the time scared about when the next attack would happen and also terrified that I could have a tumor in my brain!! I was depressed and felt my whole life was coming to an “end”.

Perhaps you have read my story and thereby know that a friend gave me 2 bottles of green smoothies and a book called “Green for life”. “What the heck!” I thought, I’ll try anything!! So  I began to drink liters of green smoothies – over a very short time my taste buds changed and I felt that things I would eat before was too salty or all of a sudden too sweet. Instead I craved more green food. I did not think this would make a difference on my Meniere’s disease –  but I felt better, had more energy, my depression went away and I even felt a bit of hope.

That was 2 years ago and I have not had a single full-blown attack since!!

I believe the reasons to be:

  • Less sodium intake – both because many of my meals today consist of plant-based foods – there is no salt added to a green smoothy! And because my taste buds changed and I don’t crave salty foods anymore.
  • I have much more energy – I started jogging and that has had a great effect on my stress level as well as improving my blood circulation
  • I eat less fat – in particular animal fat – which clogs up the arteries.  Clogged arteries means that the blood flow be restricted in and around the ear.  According to “the Meniere’s disease help blog” – High Cholesterol could be making things a lot worse for patients with Meniere’s disease.

I am neither an expert nor a doctor – all I have is my own experience! However, I strongly believe there is a connection between the way we live, what we eat and diseases like Meniere’s disease. I am certain that my change in lifestyle and eating habits have had not only a positive effect on my overall health, but also on my Meniere’s disease. Today, I have no more scary attacks, only pressure on my ear some days – and that I can live with!

I am sharing this story in the hope, maybe there are others out there that can find relief as I have.

This is a great source of information:

http://www.managemenieres.com/

Want to live longer? Jog a bit!

Reading through my Danish morning paper ” Berlingske Tidende”  equipped with a nice cuppa tea – I fell over an article called ” Few Hours Jogging Prolong Your Life Drastically”  – notice the word “Few“, really?

Yes, apparently according to the Danish study it is quite significant. It does not have to be hard and long runs before it makes a significant difference! This is the conclusion of an extended research project “Copenhagen City Heart Study” – started in 1976! The part of the study that involved jogging and it’s effect included 1.116 men and 762 women. The research showed that for joggers the risk of dying was reduced by  44% for both women and men! This reduction happened, even if they did not exercise every day. Between 1 to 2.5 hrs of jogging spread over 2 to 3 days every week gives optimal effect! The conclusion was that we can prolong our life span by 6.2 years for men, and 5.6 years for women – just by going jogging a few hours regularly – every week.

This is great news says Dr. Med Peter Schnohr  –  You do not have to do very much in order to achieve the benefits. The death rate is lower in people who are moderate joggers, than in people who never jog and the people who jog to extremes.

The effect on allergy, epilepsy, amnesia and other illnesses was also measured in the study – that in all followed 20,000 people between the ages of 2o and 93. The study has not yet been publicized but preliminary results were released at the heart conference “EuroPRevent 2012” last week. Dr. Med. Peter Schnohr proclaimed that the research has proven that regular jogging definitely prolongs life.

I am thrilled – I love my life most of the time, and hey, if I can prolong my life with 5.6 years from just jogging 1 – 2 1/2 hours every week, I will make sure I tie my shoe laces and get out there  –  cause that is pretty durable!!

So I’m off then – hope to see you out there!

Trying to stay healthy on the road

Here I am visiting Copenhagen – one of my favorite cities in the world and the place I was born. It is also the home town of Noma chosen as THE best restaurant in the world. Denmark is the “France” of Scandinavia and a mecca for amazing restaurants and gourmet food. Oh yes, and home of the famous Danish pastry!

Yes, you bet, temptations on every single corner!  On top of that seeing family and friends every day for lunch and being invited home for scrumptious dinners. So fantastic and at the same time so easy to make unhealthy choices.

So what to do?

For me it is about balance. I could say yes, and go out for fabulous meals at every mealtime. But I can also choose to meet for lunch at the local juice bar and join my friends for a delicious green juice. It is more about being together and green juice and socializing works  (surprisingly) well together!

If I drink a green juice and have some fruit for breakfast I get the nourishment my body needs and I feel content – content in a way that I can pass all the Danish pastries in Copenhagen without needing to eat them.

At the same time having met my needs for nourishment I can eat whatever I feel like eating for lunch.

I brought my jogging gear and a jogging tour through the old streets of Copenhagen is quite an experience a great way to see the city!

It is true it is difficult to stay healthy on the road but my biggest challenge is in reality ME. I am the one who can make healthy choices or unhealthy choices. I decide if I want to put on the jogging shoes and hit the road or stay home and eat pastries. I will do a bit of both I will also enjoy a Danish pastry and gourmet meals. Balance is the key for me.

How do you stay healthy on the road?