Brain & Exercise

A cartoon of a pink brain running with the words " run brainest team !" underneath.

I read an article the other day that said exercise makes the brain of seniors (us old people) look much younger on MRIs. We have known for some time that it makes us healthier and appear younger than our actual age. Now we are told it really helps your brain as well. A study in the journal Neurology took 876 seniors with an average age of 71 and measured their cognitive ability, and then five years later measured it again. It showed they had less mental decline than those who barely exercised.Overall, MRIs showed their brain looked at least 10 years younger than the group that did little in trying to live a healthy lifestyle. The more fit group had better vascular health, lowering their blood pressure and the risk of a stroke.Interestingly, the results didn’t affect the memories of anyone with cognitive decline at the start of the study and it didn’t slow their decline. This suggests that physical activity only helps before memory decline commences. Research also shows running can help with significant brain growth, but not with weightlifting. That caused me some heartburn because I lift weights several times weekly and was confident it was helping keep me healthy, both physically and mentally. Fortunately, I walk a lot, so that turns out to be what’s affecting my health the most.As a young boy growing up in the mountains of southwest Virginia in the ‘40s & ‘50s, I never witnessed adults running, walking, or lifting weights just for the benefit of good health. Today, it is ever present and ingrained in the young and old alike. My Fitbit tells me that within the last six years I have walked 15.2 million steps (8000 miles). If the Neurology study holds true, my brain should be fit as a fiddle 😊.Personally, I have noticed some decline in my ability to remember and I attribute most of it to age. I have detected nothing that is worrisome. We have been told by repeated studies that the chances of dementia double every five years after age 65 and then doubles again after age 80. If that turns out to be true, I probably won’t know my name by the time I reach age 90.Christians believe God has assigned us a date for “The Big Transitionâ€, and being one, I believe that is true. I also believe that he took into consideration whether we would eat right, exercise daily, and get plenty of sleep, and so that factored into the date he set for our demise. That is all done, unknown to us, so we should do all these things to full fill his prophecy.Regardless, we should do the things that will make our stay on this wonderful planet a complete success. I read a lot, do interesting things such as travel and visiting those I love, spend a lot of time on my PC reading emails, sending text messages, shopping, and staying up with the news. If I have any regrets, it’s that I failed to discover the keys to happiness earlier. And, make no mistake, there are several keys, not just one. The keys for my happiness might not fit the doors that open into your happy rooms.    We are all aware that the most important key to happiness is the one that fits the gym door. Yup! Let’s go exercise and get into shape. That is probably the most important key you will own for without it all the other rooms are fleeting, and you cannot get into them for very long. And as the study showed at the beginning, there is the distinct possibility that we can ward off dementia. That alone makes it worthwhile.I was sitting in my truck at the grocery store a few weeks ago waiting for my wife to grab a few things to take home. As I set there, watching people come and go, I could easily ascertain that most of us eat too much and exercise too little. Then I spot this young woman walking out of the store that is maybe 5 feet tall, weighing less than 100 lbs. And I’m thinking that she eats nothing unhealthy and works out daily. I estimate I observed 100 people, and she was the only truly healthy person in that group. Sadly, if I visualized myself coming out of the store, I would have placed myself in the unhealthy group. What that tells us is that by far, the vast majority of us are overweight, under exercised, and allowing our brains to turn in to pea soup. How can we, as humans, think we’re smart when we know what we should do and instead, do just the opposite? I have always known that smoking cigars was bad for my health, yet I continued to smoke them until I moved into a retirement community that doesn’t allow any smoking on their 40-acre campus. I haven’t smoked since June 5th, 2021. I am healthier now than I was then, and I know it. I should’ve stopped on my own much earlier. I’ll have to wait to see if there are negative consequences for my foolhardiness.   

Miguel de Cervantes said, “Never stand begging for that which you have the power to earn.† 

I should never beg for good health when I have the power to earn it.