The truth about sports, nutrition and pain!

Posts tagged ‘Physical Exercise’

The magic pill

Imagine I had something that could make a lot of your daily problems go away. Would you take it?  I think most of us would. I surely would, but guess what? That ¨pill¨ is already out there and it´s easy to get.

I´ll admit it. I have experimented with that ¨pill¨ and let me tell you something, it´s some gooodd shit, if you know what I´m talking about. This ¨pill¨ is so good it relaxes me, it makes me feel happier, it takes stress and anxiety(1,2) away from me, it makes me feel less tired and it makes me remember things better (well, that has to be a side effect).

Truth be told, sometimes I don´t feel like taking that pill, but when I do, I feel so good  that afterwards I ask myself why the hell was I even doubting to take it. But, the days that I really don´t feel like taking it, I just read the prescription. And that usually does it for me. I mean, come on, this pill has been DEMONSTRATED  to be effective against low back pain, cardiovascular disease, arterial hipertension, osteoporosis, colon cancer, breast cancer, managing your weight, knee arthritis, heart attacks, prostate cancer, hip fractures for menopausal women, depression, and most importantly ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION (not that I have any problems with that, but I´m just saying, you know, in case one of you does)(1-9). And the list goes on.

But it gets even better, this pill is not racist or sexist. Doesn´t matter if you are rich or poor, or where you live, because this¨pill¨ is free and you can take it whenever you want. If you take this ¨pill¨you will live longer and yet some people don´t take it. They complain they are too tired, or have no time, or that their knee or back hurts, not knowing that the ¨pill¨improves all those symptoms.

By now you have probably guess that the ¨pill¨ I´m talking about is called EXERCISE. I highlighted the word because a lot of people don´t know what it is, to be exact 5,3 million people, that´s the number of people that will die in 2014 from inactivity ( So let´s try to move a little bit more in 2014!!

This will be my last blog of the year,hopefully you have enjoyed it.  I wish you all happy holidays and a happy new year!

P.S. To all my spanish followers, here is a facebook page for all those that love sport and want to keep up with the latest information. It´s in spanish!/saludando





  1. Martines EW. Physical activity in the prevention and treatment of anxiety and depression. Nord J Psychiatry,2008;62 Suppl 47:25-9.
  2. Hammer M, Endrighi R, Poole L. Physical activity, stress reduction, and mood: insight into immunological mechanism. Methods Mol Bio, 2012;934:89-102.
  3. Warburton DE, Nicol CW, Bredin SS. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ, 2006 Mar 14;174(6):801-9.
  4. Penedo FJ, Dahn JR. Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Curr Opin Psychiatry,2005 Mar;18(2):189-93.
  5. Haskell WL, Lee IM, Pate RR, Powell KE, Blair SN, Franklin BA, Macera CA, Health GW, Thompson PD, Bauman A. Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2007 Aug:39(8):1423-34.
  6. Blair SN, ChenY, Holder JS. Is physical activity or physical fitness more important in defining health benefits? Med Sci Sports Exerc,2001 Jun;33(6Suppl): S379-99.
  7. Sculco AD, Paup DC, Fenhall B, Sculco MJ. Effects of aerobic exercise on low back pain patients in treatment. Spine J,2001 Mar-Apr;1(2):95-101.
  8. Cooper R, Kuh D, Hardy R; Mortality Review Group; FALCon and HALCyon Study Teams. Objectively measured physical capability levels and mortality: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 2010 Sep 9;341.
  9. Pohjantähti-Maaroos H, Palomäki A, Hartikainen J. Erectile dysfunction, physical activity and metabolic syndrome: differences in markers of atherosclerosis. BMC Cardiovasc Disord,2001 Jun 27;11:36.

Yoga, is it really that good for you?

As I write this blog I am trembling with fear, as I am afraid that all those yoga lovers will hunt me down for even questioning if yoga is really that good for us. Because, as we have all heard or even been taught, yoga is amazing. Yoga improves flexibility, yoga improves sex, yoga improves balance, yoga reduces stress, yoga helps menopausal women, yoga lowers the risk of heart disease, yoga reduces anxiety, yoga, yoga, yoga(1-4). Whatever your problem is, yoga will have a solution. I am surprised there is not a yoga phone line to help us in the need of an emergency.

But all kidding aside, yoga is good for us, as is any other physical activity. And if someone ever asked me if they should do yoga, I will 90% of the time say yes, the same as if anyone asked me if they should start walking, or if they should sign up to the gym, or if they should do dancing, or if they should do pilates. Exercise is great and it produces a great benefit to anyone who practices it (, so if that exercise is called yoga then great, go for it, but as with any other activity it has risks, especially more in men.

Yoga plays around with different postures and in some of them you need a lot of flexibility. So yoga enhances flexibility, but we must not forget that more flexibility doesn´t mean a lower risk of getting an injury, sometimes even the opposite is true, the more flexible you are the greater chance of getting injured (5).

We all know that women are more flexible than men and this is where yoga poses some threat to men. Some of the postures that you have to do in yoga are almost impossible for some men (and even women), because of their lack of flexibility and also because of their bone structure. That bone structure will suffer if forced into a position that anatomically is not possible for them. And according to William J .Broad, ¨men will sometimes use their muscle to get into these challenging poses and this is where they get hurt and why men get injured more often than women and suffer damage that is far worse, including fractures, dislocations and shattered backs¨( 6).

But women also suffer, especially in the hip area, due to the mechanical limitations of the joint. Extreme leg motions could cause the hip bones to repeatedly strike each other, leading over time to damaged cartilage, inflammation, pain and crippling arthritis (7). This is called Femoroacetabular Impingement, and is often found in middle-aged women who do yoga ( it also happens a lot to dancers). Yoga has also been associated with a higher risk of meniscus injury compared to badminton, jogging and climbing hills (8). So you see, yoga also has its risks as with any other physical activity.

The last thing I want to touch upon before I leave is the ¨back topic¨. I always hear people say that ¨yoga is wonderful for the back and anyone who has back pain should do yoga¨, and this is not true. Exercise and movement are great for the back and those are two things you do with yoga. But with yoga you also do a lot of bending.When you bend forward, or when you move any joint for that matter, ligaments really aren’t on tension until you get to the end range, so they aren’t loaded. What this means is that when you bend forward or round your low back, you don’t really put strain on the ligaments so long as your muscles are keeping you from end range . This seems fine, right? Well, there is this thing called the flexion-relaxation phenomenon that happens when people round their lower back: the muscles relax and people end up hanging on their ligaments and discs. And this is not a good thing. As I  mentioned in one of my previous blogs (, it is almost impossible to herniate yourself without being in full flexion. Well, guess what? In yoga you are doing a lot of flexion and in some cases even full flexion. Now this doesn´t mean that you should stop doing yoga, or that yoga is going to cause you a herniation. It probably won´t and I will say it again, YOGA IS GOOD, but if you have back problems, depending on your problem yoga can do more harm than good.

The good thing about yoga compared to other physical activities is that it promotes a healthy lifestyle effect like non-smoking, reduced alcohol consumption, increased exercise, vegetarianism and reduced stress, this could all be factors that lead people to say that yoga is amazing and that it does wonders. If we all changed our way of life, did more sports, ate better and reduced our stress, we would all feel much better.


  1. Li AW, Goldsmith CA. The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. Altern Med Rev; 2012 Mar;17(1):21-35.
  2. Ross A, Thomas S. The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies. J Altern Complement Med.2010 Jan;16(1):3-12
  3. Innes Ke, Vincent HK. The influence of yoga-based progams on risk profiles in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2007 Dec;4(4):469-86.
  4. Oken Bs, Zajedl D, Kishiyama S, Elegal K, Dehen C, Hass M, Kraemer DF, Lawrence J, Leyva J. Randomized, controlled, six-month trial of yoga in healthy seniors: effects on cognition and quality of life. Altern Ther Health Med 2006 Jan-Feb;12(1):40-7.
  5. Battie MC, Bigos SJ, Fisher LD, Spengler DM, Hansson TH, Nachemson AL, Wortley MD. The role of spinal flexibility in back pain complaints within industry: A prospective study. Spine 1.
  6. William J. Broad.
  7. Ganz R, Leunig M, Leuing-Ganz K, Harris  W. The Etiology of Osteoarthritis of the Hip.Clin Orthop Relat Res 2008 February;466(2):264-272.
  8. Zhuj JK, Wu LD, Zheng RZ, Lan SH. Yoga is found hazardous to the meniscus for Chinese women. Chin J Traumatol 2012 Jun1;15(3):148-51.
 Snook SH, Webster BS, McGorry RW, Fogleman MT, McCann KB. The reduction of chronic nonspecific low back pain through the control of early morning lumbar flexion. Spine 1998, 23: 2601-07.
Kelsey JL. An Epidemiological Study of Acute Herniated Lumbar Intervertebral Disc. Int J. Epidemiol:4;197-204


I think by now we all know how good exercise is and the benefits we receive from it, like for example, reducing most people´s risk of developing diabetes and growing obese, but still people don´t do it. So how can we change this? Maybe by giving them more information and making them realize that exercise is not only going to improve their quality of life but also help them in their job.

For some people their job is everything, so if we can show that exercise will help them in their job, then maybe this will make them live a more active lifestyle.

A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience has seen that physical activity reorganizes the brain, so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function. What this study did was to compare two groups of mice. One group was given unlimited access to a running wheel, while the other group had no running wheel. Usually, a normal mouse will run up to 4 kilometers any given day. After 6 weeks, the mice were exposed to cold water for a brief period of time. And what the scientists were able to see is that the brains of active and sedentary mice behaved differently almost as soon as the stressor (cold water) occurred. What happened is that in the brains of active mice there was a spike in the activity of neurons that shut off excitement in the ventral hippocampus, a brain region shown to regulate anxiety, while in the sedentary mice this did not happen.

This basically means that physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function. This is very important and something we should not forget, but something almost as important is that the brain can be extremely adaptive!! What I mean by this is that the brain may create anxiety in less physical fit people for a reason. Anxiety often manifests itself in avoidant behavior and avoiding potentially dangerous situations would increase the likelihood of survival (Remember that the last 10,000 years only represent 1% of human evolution). So from an evolutionary point of view, maybe anxiety was good to protect the less physical fit people, but now in age we don´t really need it.

So in conclusion:

  1. Exercise reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress.
  2. The people who exercise will usually have less anxiety.
  3. Anxiety, from an evolution stand point, was good to protect the less physical fit people, but now in age we don´t really need it.
  4. The brain can be extremely adaptive.


Scoenfeld T, Rada P, Pieruzzini P, Hsueh B, Gould E. Physical Exercise Prevents Stress.Induced Activation of Ganule Neurons and Enhances Local Inhibitory Mechanisms in the Dentate Gyrus. Journal of Neuroscience. May 2013.

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