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Healing through Exercise: Scientifically-Proven Ways to Prevent and Overcome Illness and Lengthen Your Life

Jorg Blech

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Jun 16, 2009
Category: Health and Fitness

In the forest, sick animals hide and rest until they’re better. That is perhaps the origin of “bed rest” as a cure for sick people. If so, that’s inspired a crucial misunderstanding, for staying inert when ill leaves us tired, weak and vulnerable — spend three weeks in bed, your heart shrinks by 11 percent.

What helps sick people get well and get well faster?

Exercise. So says Jorg Bleck, the America-based correspondent for Der Spiegel. And he’s not just advancing a theory; this book is dense with medical studies.

He starts the book with two attention-getting anecdotes.

One is from a shrink, who has two treadmills facing one another in his office — he and the patient talk as they work out. Guess what? The patients cheer up.

Another is from a woman — a surgeon specializing in breast cancer — who suffers from breast cancer. Despite her illness, she exercises religiously. “It may be the last thing you feel like doing,” she says, “but I believe it can save your life.”

What is exercise for Jorg Blech? More than you suspect. Gardening. Cleaning the house. Climbing stairs. Anything that has you out of a chair and moving. Because inactivity is your enemy. To quote Blaise Pascal: “Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death.”

Most people do not feel this way. As Blech notes, “The World Health Organization has classified 60 percent of the world’s population as sedentary; 41 percent do not even have two hours of moderate exercise per week; 17 percent are completely inactive. It is estimated that 2 million people die from illnesses caused by lack of exercise… in the United States, treatment for sedentary citizens costs 75 billion dollars every year.”

It’s not entirely our fault. That e-mail you just sent to a colleague down the hall? In ye olde days, you had to hand-carry that message. Now we sit in our chairs all day, using only our minds and fingers. No wonder we burn as few as 300 calories while we work.

But if we exercised?

Got heart disease? Burn more calories, reduce the chance of blockage in your coronary arteries. One expert says: physical activity can reduce the chance of dying from chronic heart failure by 38 percent.

Do you have Diabetes 2? According to one study, you can reduce the effects of the disease by 58 percent if you’ll walk for just 30 minutes, five days a week and eat a low-fat diet. Compare those results to those of a control group that was treated with the standard medication — the effects of Diabetes were reduced by only 31 percent.

Depressed? Walking 2.5 hours a week may do more to cheer you than any medication you could take.

Memory loss and senility? “The body builds the mind as well as itself,” states Blech. “If you exercise your muscles, you practically flood your gray cells with fresh nutrients and growth factors.”

This is essentially the same message that Crowley and Lodge deliver in Younger Next Year. Except Blech is kinder. For him, you don’t have to lift steel. Walking will, he says, get you healthy, reduce stress and prolong life.

If you need to see stats and read studies to get going, this may be the book that motivates you — or a sick friend or relative — as no other ever has.