Keeping up physically — and cognitively

I just got done with my second workout of the day. I’m not being compulsive (I promise) — it’s just that I really took it easy this morning, thinking I needed a break. Then I watched this great bunch of videos about how exercise helps the brain,  and I got a number of reprints of research by Arthur F. Kramer, who has done a bunch of research linking exercise with cognitive health, (especially Fit body, fit mind? Scientific American Mind, July/August) and I decided I really needed to give my brain a little more stimuli today, than I had this morning.

I have plenty of people around me who urge me to take it easy and not push myself.  They think it’s a little excessive of me to spend the first half hour-45 minutes of each day exercising and getting my heart rate and respiration going. But I don’t push myself hard every single day, and even if I did, would I be doing anything different to my body, than my ancestors once did, when they had none of the conveniences we have today, and every activity they undertook involved a vastly more involved level of effort, than the activities we follow today?

Exercising makes me feel good. And it’s good for my brain. And it wards off infection and illness. I just can’t feel badly about that.

Plus, you know, when I think about it, the folks who are most eager to see me “slow down” are pretty sedentary, themselves. And they’re not particularly healthy. So, do I take advice from them? Hmmm….

Only if I want to be like them, which I don’t — in the physical respect, anyway.

But I’d rather be like myself. And some very elderly, cognitively with-it relatives I have. I’ve got folks in my grandparents’ generation who are still mentally capable and fully competent, and they’re pushing 100. That’s more than I can say for some of my friends who are keen on me slowing down. Their families, from what they’ve told me, are not given to great longevity. Or mental acuity late into life.

Bottom line is, I just gotta be me. And if that “me” is into exercising more than 15 minutes a day and relishing the pump of freshening blood through my veins and arteries, and feeling good off the boost in oxygen in my brain, then that’s just fine.

And that boost goes a long way, apparently. Exercise, especially extended aerobic exertion over a span of 20 minutes, activates the brain to not only function better, but actually build itself back.  I was reading earlier today about how exercise among a certain aging group resulted in their brains having the mass of individuals 30 years younger. That’s pretty cool, especially since everyone has assumed for decades that once your brain starts to go, that’s pretty much it.

But that’s not the case. Not anymore. And in fact, it’s never been. But we bought into that story, so we got stuck in our crappy stories and became our own self-fufilling prophecies. Like a friend of mine who loves to blame their ‘middle-aged brain’ for every little thing that goes wrong in their life. It’s a bogus claim, especially since my very-elderly elders can dance circles around them, cognitively speaking.

So, I’m focusing on keeping up physically, so that I can benefit cognitively. I don’t want to end up like the members of my family who succumbed to dementia and other degenerative disorders. I know TBI predisposes me to greater risk of demential, but by God, I’m going to do everything in my power to prevent that from taking me out.

I do not want to go down some path of misery and decay, just ’cause of a bunch of freak accidents and being the target of stupid a-holes who thought they had the right to attack me for no good reason.  What’s the sense in that? I know, I should probably make my peace with the uncertainties of life, and just try to savor each moment, but I enjoy this life too much — with all its disappointments and frustrations — to give in. I’d much rather listen to music, work out, and read and learn and participate in my life.

With that kind of focus — rather than sitting around, waiting for my sad life to come to an unfortunate end — even if I do get taken out before my time, at least I’m pretty sure to be enjoying myself.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

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