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Moving my body

Physical exercise is something I struggle to incorporate into my daily routine. I am the master at finding excuses to not exercise. As I reread my previous posting I felt uneasy. I knew there was at least one aspect of my life where I was not practising what I was preaching.

“Who are you to talk about making time in your day for creative pursuits?” I could hear myself saying. “You can’t even fit in a daily walk.”

“You always have an excuse.”

“This is about your health,” the little voice in my head continued to say. “Don’t you care?”

“I do care.”

“Well, do something about it Marica!”

I have become far too sedentary for my own good. Change needs to happen.

Kathy Sierra explores why humans do not exercise. She suggests we could learn a lot from our pets.

Take a healthy dog and put it in a confined area (house, kennel, etc.). Then take him out to a park or trail, and remove the leash. What happens? Take a horse out of a stall or small paddock and turn him loose in a larger enclosure (what we call “turning out”). What happens? …

Take a human out of his work cubicle or off the couch and turn him loose outside. What happens? Hmmm… for far too many of us, nothing happens. Or we turn around and walk right back in the door and head for the couch or the chair in front of our computer. The one thing that usually does not happen is the kind of physical exuberance–the sheer joy of being able to run and jump–that so many other animals do.

Where did we lose that overpowering desire to run and jump?

I felt a sense of relief as I read these words. I am not alone in my struggle.

Exercise has a positive effect on our brain and directly impacts on our cognitive functioning. Why was I so surprised? I knew this.

The human brainThe word exercise derives from a Latin root meaning to maintain, to keep, to ward off. To exercise means to practice, put into action, train, perform, use, improve.

Walking is especially good for your brain, because it increases blood circulation and the oxygen and glucose that reach your brain. Walking is not strenuous, so your leg muscles don’t take up extra oxygen and glucose like they do during other forms of exercise. As you walk, you effectively oxygenate your brain. Maybe this is why walking can “clear your head” and help you to think better.

The Franklin Institute Online, The Human Brain, Physical exercise for a better brain

The great news is that research has shown it is never too late to start exercising. There is hope for me yet.

Women Who Walk Remember – Study

When the cognitive abilities of elderly women were compared, those who walked regularly were less likely to experience age-related memory loss and other declines in mental function.

University of California at San Francisco researchers measured the brain function of nearly 6,000 women during an eight-year period. The results were correlated with the women’s normal activity level, including their routine walking and stair-climbing.

“In the higher-energy groups, we saw much less cognitive decline,” said neurologist Kristine Yaffe, MD. Of the women who walked the least (a half-mile per week), 24% had significant declines in their test scores, compared to only 17% of the most active women (17 miles per week).

It wasn’t a matter of all or nothing. “We also found that for every extra mile walked per week there was a 13% less chance of cognitive decline,” said Yaffe, who is Chief of Geriatric Psychiatry at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center. “So you don’t need to be running marathons. The exciting thing is there was a ‘dose’ relationship which showed that even a little is good but more is better.”

“In the higher-energy groups, we saw much less cognitive decline” – a protective effect amounting to as much as 40% – according to Yaffe. “This is an important intervention that all of us can do and it could have huge implications in preventing cognitive decline.”

Archives of Internal Medicine, July 23, 2001

I’m off for a walk …

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