Review of “Hjärnstark” by Anders Hansen

Title: Hjärnstark (The Real Happy Pill)
Author: Anders Hansen
Series: –
Genre: Nonfiction
Length: 7 hours 14 minutes
Published: 2016, Bonnier Audio
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Is there a foolproof way to reduce stress and anxiety while you boost your memory? Raise your IQ even as you slow down the aging process? Become more creative and train your ability to focus at the same time? The answer is simple: Move! Modern neuroscience and research has shown, more than ever, that physical exercise has extraordinary effects on our cognition.

Physical activity, more so than Sudoku or crossword puzzles, optimizes our mental abilities and health in a way unparalleled by any drug, medication, or food supplement. And exercise doesn’t just enhance your health, energy and mood levels, and cognitive abilities. You will also learn:

  • Why physical training is the best protection against dementia
  • What type of exercise can be used to treat depression as an antidepressant
  • How exercise increases the ability to focus in children, especially kids with ADHD
  • How children with good fitness can become better in math and reading comprehension
  • Why “runner’s high”, the natural chemicals released during jogging, improves your health and mood

With practical and concrete advice for the layman on how to reap these benefits, as well as neuroscientific research from the last five years broken down to accessible findings, The Real Happy Pill urges you to train your body and mind for a whole-body upgrade, and start to move!

MY REVIEW

I’ve heard many good things about this book for quite a while now but haven’t really felt that I wanted to prioritize reading it physically. Audiobooks has opened up a whole new world to me and I wish I would have started with it sooner.

I’ve grown up knowing that exercise is good for you. I may not have been the most active kid during recess at school, but I’ve always performed some kind of after school activity, since I was like 8 or something? But I didn’t know it had a bigger effect on the body than maintaining weight and keeping your heart healthy in the future.

But apparently, the brain benefits a lot from working out and this book explains how and why, in a simple way. He takes study after study and presents the evidence that all point to the same thing. Exercise is helping the memory, creating new brain cells, and helping you in ways that prescribed antidepressants is nowhere near doing. The problem is that no one is gaining any monetary means from promoting exercise.

Hansen is also describing how we have developed very very fast in the last two centuries and our brains have not yet adapted to it. Our brains are still thinking that we live on the savanna and hunting for food. Which is something he writes in more depth about in his next book “Skärmhjärnan” (~Screen Brain).

I have played beach volleyball for fourteen years now. I consider that a cardio workout, but I’ve always preferred lifting weights and gaining muscle (mostly because I have a genetic disorder with my calves) and stayed away from running, which is the form of exercise that Hansen exclusively writes about. I can’t run. But he also said that as long as your heart rate goes up, it’s fine. Maybe I’ll add an extra cardio workout every week in different forms. I have already started walking more, for example to and from work every day (more time to listen to books). I will also be very careful with letting my potential future kids know that exercise is good for them and make sure that they stay active and not just use the screen as a plaything.

It was an inspiring book and I do believe that the world would be a better place if everyone stayed active more. I give this book a 4.5 out of 5. Please read it!

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