Holiday Workout with the Kids
- So I was exercising with my kids, burning off the extra calories from holiday eating, when I spotted a teachable moment…
- “You know,” I told them, “exercise is good for your brain, not just your muscles.”
- My family is used to me droning on about the brain, and my children patiently endured.
- I explained what they’ve already heard hundreds of times: That the brain has an amazing ability to recover and reconfigure, depending on the stresses it’s put under.
- I was proud that they already knew that brains make their own stem cells, allowing for recovery and growth over time.
- So as I went on to describe the way that our brains form new memories and are nourished by the effects of exercise.
- But I struggled to answer my son’s question, “Does labor work just as well as exercise?”
Creating New Brain
- I thought was a brilliant question for a teenager to be asking, and at first I thought it was an easy answer.
- “Of course not,” I told him, because that’s what I’ve been telling my patients for years.
- You see, I get into this discussion all the time, because I’m constantly telling my patients that they need to be exercising.
- The evidence is powerful!
- People with Alzheimer Disease who start walking for exercise improve their memory.
- Patients recovering from stroke who exercise can recover lost functions.
- I am amazed on a daily basis by how much benefit the brain receives from exercise.
But I don’t see the same results from labor.
- Yet people in general seem to try to equate physical labor with exercise.
- Here’s how the exchange goes:
- Me: “Ok, Mr. Smith, let’s get you started on an exercise regimen.”
- Mr. Smith: “Groan…do I really have to?”
- Me: “Well, it would really help to improve the way your brain works.”
- Mr. Smith: “But you know, doc, I’m very active, I walk around the office all day. And I’m in the garden a couple times a week lifting bags of soil.”
- Me: “Well, I guess that’s better than sitting and watching TV…”
Certainly, it’s good to be active.
- Being productive and doing things is good for the mind.
- It sets into motion a series of processes that help your mood and circulation.
- And it’s much better for you than having a sedentary lifestyle.
- In fact, if I could just get some of my patients to the place of being active I would be very pleased.
But the truth is that physical labor is not the same as exercise.
- If you want a truly healthy and optimized brain, you have to do more.
- If you want to increase your productivity, you have to do more.
- If you want to extend the longevity of your brain, you have to do more.
- Labor is not enough. People don’t get the same function
- But for the longest time, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why brick-laying was not the same as bench-pressing.
And then it dawned on me…it’s a matter of mindset!
- Movement during physical labor is done with the mindset of saving energy…
- …while movement during exercise is all about spending energy.
When you are performing labor…
- It is from the perspective of trying to conserve energy.
- You are trying to meet a goal of productivity, to garner resources, to accomplish a task.
- And the mindset is to do that with as little energy expenditure as possible.
- A caveman or early farmer would do the absolute minimum to get along.
- They wouldn’t go into the wild and kill a wooly mammoth, only to turn around and do hot yoga for an hour!
- They needed to conserve their energy at all costs, because of the harsh environment.
- But today, we have fast food and an abundance of calories.
- So getting the food is more of a result of our work.
- And the work is what brings home the bacon.
- So physical labor is often done from the constrained place of anxiety, scarcity, and competition.
When you are exercising…
- You go into it with the mindset of using energy.
- Your goal is to strengthen your muscles, bones and heart.
- Rather than trying to compete with others for resources, you are competing with yourself to improve yourself.
- Exercise is done from the open place of courage, confidence, abundance and collaboration.
The brain turns on different circuits depending on your mindset.
- Stress hormone production
- Mindless repetition
- Memory erosion
- Stress hormone reduction
- Creative expansion
- Memory enhancement
So now more than ever, as we get ready to work off the holiday calories, remember than your MINDSET will make a huge difference for your brain function.
Develop the intentionality of exercise, even when you’re doing physical labor, and reap the gains in Optimizing Your Brain!