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How to Find Your Happy Place

Walking to your happy place

I dread when my husband encourages me to exercise. Or when my little ‘inside voice’ says, “Get out there and enjoy this beautiful day!” In those moments, I seem to have too much going on, or I just want to finally relax. Timing never seems to be in sync with my good intentions to stay healthy. But, once I am outside and walking, I’m so happy. This isn’t a coincidence. In fact, there is so much evidence now that shows the benefits of exercise (besides putting you in your ‘happy place’) that it’s crazy not to get out there and walk. Exercise has been proven to help you feel more energized and motivated and think more creatively. ‘Saving time’ by not walking or exercising is counterproductive because evidence shows it actually helps get you more organized and efficient.

Of all exercises, walking is the most profound neuropathic stimulator in developing new brain cells. Aerobic exercise provides great benefits to get you healthier, smarter and reduce pain, however, walking is the best promotor of neurogenesis… in other words, it helps us grow our brain! We can problem solve better and be more creative, plus it also helps to convert short term memories into long term memories. Meditation, learning new things and laughing, also do this, but walking is best. The more you walk, the more dopamine (a neurotransmitter) is released into your system. The brain includes several distinct dopamine pathways, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. What this means is, the more you move, the more you want to move!

So, are you feeling stressed or over-loaded with work? That’s the best time to get out and walk or run. According to Dr. John Ratey (MIT Media Lab) who studies exercise and the influences it has on the brain/body, “It takes more stress to get you stressed, the fitter you are in life.” Twitter_blue

Recently, information has come to light that demonstrates how exercise helps build a higher IQ. That’s right, you can enhance your IQ and ability to learn, by participating in regular exercise! A research study undertaken at the Swedish Sahlgrenska Academy, showed that when high school students increased their exercise, there was an increase in their grades and IQ scores.

I can almost hear you saying, “I don’t have time to exercise”. Perhaps you can try the popular Tabata Protocol. This involves 20 seconds of intense exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat this cycle 8 times and you will have a 4-minute exercise regime, worthy of Japanese Olympic athletes!

Maybe you’re feeling too old, or you have a neurodegenerative disease, such as MS or Parkinson’s. Because of this, getting outdoors can be daunting, however accessing different terrain forces changes in tempo of stride and direction. Combining prolonged exercise with a learning-based component (for example, a new trail or different neighborhood to walk through) is neuroprotective in aging individuals and for those with neurodegenerative disease.

Walking continues to be the key contributor to reducing the risk of dementia. One recent study claimed that the risk could be reduced by a staggering 60%! O.K. this study also emphasized the aging subjects were non-smokers, had a healthy diet, had normal weight and had low alcohol consumption. But 60% is 60% and definitely something to think about.

Are you feeling you’re too old or tired to get in shape? It’s never too late. Take a lesson from Mr. Fauja Singh, who at age 89 started training to run marathons. In 2011 at age 100, he completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon (8h:25m:17s). At 104 years old, he participated in the Mumbai Marathon.

Enough said. I’m beginning to hear that inner voice tell me to get off the computer and get out and walk! It’s time to “find my happy place”.

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