super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others



Every time I hear someone say that running is bad for my knees, I want to knee them where it hurts to prove that my knees are actually just fine, thankyouverymuch.

But then other days, weird stuff happens. Meteorites fall on earth, a new Die Hard movie comes out, it rains spiders somewhere, the pope resigns like being the pope is just another office job, and I… I wake up all understanding and nice and stuff. On those weird days, I try to make sense of where those ideas come from.

It’s really easy to assume running is bad for your knees. Look at those hot runners pounding the ground like nobody’s business. It looks like hard work and those knees are getting the impact. But guess what? That’s what they’re designed to do.

Here’s a quick list of things that are bad for your knees: endless hours of sitting on the couch watching episodes of the Real Housewives of Whogivesacrap, getting attacked by a swarm of bees and having some of them sting your knees (now say that last one really fast), getting into a bar fight and getting a bullet right on the knee cap, wrestling a bear and having the bear grab you by the knees and crushing your knee caps with its own giant bear paws. I could go on but I think I’ve made my point. Notice anything missing from that list? Exactly.

What really gets me is that it’s always those with no real health credentials that seem to have instant PhDs in this topic – they are always the outspoken, know-it-all ones. If it’s okay with you, I’m only going to take medical advice from people who actually know what they’re talking about. Like my doctor, for example, who actually went to medical school and who has his own medical practice and who has even run a marathon. If the extent of your medical knowledge comes from type sites or hours of watching Dr Oz, then I suggest you keep that advice to yourself because you might just be causing more harm than good.

The fact is that your body is not designed to be sitting around doing nothing. Moreover, doing that is precisely what causes damage to every single bone, tendon and muscle. Modern society has made it all really easy for us. Don’t get me wrong, I’d also love to have a robot that can pick up my ice cream from the freezer and bring it to me while I sit on the couch watching re-runs of How I Met Your Mother, with my knees safely tucked under the blankets. But if I ever get a robot like that (please, science, please please please!), then it better come coded with a function to also automatically turn on and off the oxygen mask I’ll soon be needing to help me breathe.

Exercise is not bad for you and I’m always shocked to find people spreading this stupid idea around, especially when obesity is at an all-time high (and you can’t tell me that carrying all the extra weight from all those burgers isn’t bad for your knees). “Oh but remember so and so, who died right after the marathon?” Hmm, yeah, thanks for that reminder. Also, exercise-related deaths are publicized precisely because they’re a rare occurrence. Don’t quote me on this statistic, since, other than my kilometers on the road, I have the health credentials of a hedgehog who drank too much Makers Mark (before they started diluting the stuff) but I’m pretty sure you are far more likely to die in your sleep than while exercising.

The key to this is the same key to everything else in life: moderation. A glass of wine won’t kill you (unless it gets thrown at you really hard, maybe). A lifetime as a raging alcoholic will probably cause a fair amount of damage. A marathon won’t kill you. Run double-digit miles every day for the rest of your life without a moment’s rest and, yeah, you might actually collapse.

If done in moderation, running is pretty much the best cardiovascular exercise you can possibly get. Not only that, your knees, like everything else in your body, can get stronger through exercise, if exercise is combined with the right amount of rest. It’s that rest period that strengthens everything, it completes the workout and makes sure you get the full effects of the exercise (and I’m not just saying this because I’m on day #2 of not running).

When was the last time you heard of research showing you that couch potatoes live longer and healthier lives than people who exercise? I don’t watch much daytime TV but I’m pretty sure that “Steve dramatically improved his health just by spending a mere two hours a day sitting down with a bowl of chips” isn’t a sentence that comes up very often. So where do these ideas come from?

Running looks like hard work (because it is). Hard work scares people. Except people don’t like admitting they’re scared of hard work so they come up with other reasons why they’re not doing it. “I’d love to run but it’s so bad for the knees” is a cop out. If you can’t run because you already have knee issues, that’s a different problem – but, in that case, running can’t be blamed for it anyway. It’s easier for people to find an excuse and pretend that there’s a higher reason they choose not to exercise, aside from their own laziness.

If it turns out that, by some miracle, they are right and all logical thinking along with everything we know about the human condition is actually flawed, then that’s okay. I’d rather live a long life with bad knees than a life that gets cut short because my sedentary lifestyle translated into heart and lung problems.

Now I better go get my own ice cream since science is stalling on that robot idea.

(If you want to read more from people who actually know what they’re talking about, I suggest reading stuff like this or this.)



All this nothing we’re doing is actually killing us

I would not pick a fight with this 93 year old. But then again, I probably wouldn’t pick a fight with any 93 year old -they’re always so adorable. Just not usually this badass.

I caught bits of a TV show the other night where doctors were trying to figure out the mystery cause of some weird symptoms a lady had been displaying ever since giving birth to her son. She had put on what she described as “copious amounts of weight” following the pregnancy and had been suffering from a myriad of symptoms that doctors didn’t seem to be able to associate with any particular disease. The last doctor she visited analysed her lifestyle and realised that her extremely poor diet and absolute lack of exercise were mostly to blame. It took her a couple of months of dieting, combined with exercising three times a week, and her symptoms began to disappear.

Of course it’s not always this obvious but, more often than not, the equation really is that easy. We can try to make all the excuses we want for what we do to ourselves (“I really deserve this tenth piece of brownie because I took the stairs to that second floor instead of taking the elevator”) but the fact is that a healthy lifestyle usually leads to a healthy life. It’s not really rocket science. Of course there are diseases that can happen in spite of someone taking the best care of themselves but you are pretty much guaranteed to avoid a number of issues if you just take responsibility for your health.

It’s a harsh reality, though, and we always find a million excuses. I speak for myself here. But when I started thinking about it watching the show, it hit me how painfully obvious and in-your-face this fact actually is.

Eventually, we will all start decaying before we finally die (what an upbeat post, I know). As much as modern medicine can do for us, it’s the cycle of life and the planet would really be in trouble if we all stopped dying. No matter how many artificial limbs or organ transplants you get, eventually, your machine needs to stop moving. But does that mean the process needs to be a slow painful one?

I came across this Ted talk today and it was as inspiring as it was eye-opening. Charles Eugster is right – old age has come to be synonym of a number of health problems. But does it really have to be? I mean, look at him.

The 93-year old oarsman and bodybuilder hits the nail on the head: We are over-nourished, over-medicated and physically inactive and that inactivity is a major cause of death.

“Natural healthy aging is unseen, covering by a blanket of disease. In fact, it is falsely assumed that disease is a natural consequence of aging. Lift up the blanket and there could be surprises,” he says.

He gives some good statistics and makes some great points so I highly recommend you get yourself a cup of tea and sit through the whole 16 minute video.

Eugster also goes into much deeper issues such as retirement age/ life expectancy (which has not only health but also financial consequences).  I don’t fully agree with absolutely everything he says. He calls retirement a “massive health calamity” and a “future financial disaster”, I call it a lifelong dream, but I do see his point. Life doesn’t have to start ending 20 or so years before it’s actually expected to end.

His point is simple: look after yourself and those problems that we grew used to associate with aging will disappear. And if you’re going to use your age as an excuse, then quit it right there. Eugster started well into his 80s so, really, your point is invalid.

Oh damn, I feel like I’m coming across as preachy. Am I coming across as preachy? Maybe I am. Listen, I’m definitely no role model. I don’t think I’ve ever turned down a family-sized bar of mint chocolate and I have no intentions of ever doing that. But, on the other hand, I’ve made a bunch of little changes to my lifestyle in the last couple of years and, even with my regular slip-ups, it all has had an amazing impact on my health. I’m millions of midnight snacks away from an actual proper healthy life but videos like this are a great use of  “inactive time”.

I’ll shut up now. The point is, let’s stop sitting around. It’s killing us.


photo source: Ted Blog
For further reading on Eugster’s achievements, check out his website and this article he wrote for the Guardian.