You could generally call me an anecdote enjoyer: even when I snark about useless anecdotes in self-help books, I like the reading experience. But this book was … a lot of repetitive anecdotes, interrupted only by equally repetitive “movement good” level info. Granted, there’s also quite a bit of science (evolution, hormones, brain chemistry) with actual citations, but it all felt very low-relevance and not super trustworthy. That might be me overcorrecting for the replication crisis, but also I’m not actually interested in what the brain chemicals are called that start being active when I move for 20 minutes etc.
Being physically active makes you happy. This is 90% of the book. For example, movement increases happiness even in hospice patients and cures anxiety, whereas reducing your step count can more or less directly induce depression. She quotes ~5.5k steps as being little enough to lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
This bit wasn’t in Born To Run, I think: Humans are the only primates to have a nuchal ligament, a bit of connective tissue between skull and spine, usually found in other running species like wolves and horses. (Keeps your head from bobbing when your run.) (And yes, runner’s high comes from moderate activity for 20+ minutes blah blah.)
Another thing she keeps coming back to is how exercising together with others also makes you feel happy, grounded, and fulfilled. Of course, this has to be shown with a million anecdotes, but it’s still a thing worth highlighting and nudging. Examples include volunteer movements that evolve into strong, helpful communities and so on, and also anything that makes you move in synchronicity with others (mentions the absolutely enchanting term “muscular bonding” 😳). See also: adventure races like Tough Mudder that also rely on people helping each other.
- researchers have real trouble finding people willing to stop exercising. She tries to set this up as something awesome and incredible, when it’s really intuitive (if you’ve been exercising regularly for years, of course you don’t want to stop and see your effort start draining away).
- Cites a study that a gym found that minimum exposure to build a reliable habit was four days per week for six weeks.
- Well chosen music increases performance (which is one reason many races don’t allow headphones. I will never run in a race like that). I mean, who doesn’t like working out to “Till I Collapse” or “Eye of the Tiger”?
- “Joyful movements are fast, big, and vertical. Happiness bounces, leaps, and jumps. It is upward-facing and expansive.”
- Changing your life by changing your proprioception (or failing to do one by failing to do the other).
- More in favour of “Rectangles Bad”: “Eighteen percent of the people in the United States say they have had an intense spiritual experience while in nature, and almost half of all mystical experiences take place in a natural setting.”
This book is part of the 2022 Backlog Incident.