Tag Archives: brain fitness

Joggling through the snow and the mind

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Snow is endlessly tricky for joggling. Every few feet its texture changes. It occasionally conceals ice or puddles underneath. How many times my feet have gotten wet and cold as a result!

How the snow cloaks the earth, how it masterfully conceals. You try to master it, yet in the end it always wins, balls get dropped, feet get wet, or a body part is injured. As tricky as a snowy forest is, it still pales in comparison to the cloaks all humans wear. As tricky as joggling in the snow is, figuring out humans is far more challenging. Snowy terrain is easy. Navigating the icy terrain of the human mind is something else entirely.

What is real and what is illusion? Our senses aren’t always reliable. We are so easy to fool, and we fool ourselves better than anyone else can. Who can we trust, when we sometimes can’t even trust ourselves?

Wait, so that is a small tree ahead and not a person? I thought that was a shrub in the distance, and not a dog. How was I to know this snow concealed a small pond? If only it were always so easy.

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Are you cognitively fit?

When we think of fitness, we usually think of speed, strength, flexibility, or coordination. We don’t normally think about cognitive or brain fitness. There seems to be a dualism at work when it comes to how we approach fitness, with the mind being thought of as separate from the rest of the body, and treated as such.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. I believe brain training is just as important as strength-training, and cardio. Solving puzzles, playing chess, or playing a musical instrument are all great ways to keep your mind sharp, but the body is generally not very active while doing this. These are all great ways to improve your cognitive fitness, but a more efficient use of time would combine cardio with a brain workout.

This is where juggling comes in, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be juggling. Any physical activity that raises your heart rate and involves novel, precise body movement will suffice. Martial arts, dancing, and rock climbing all give your brain a boost while also providing cardio benefits. You could even use martial arts to take down some very powerful criminals, which would require a lot of thought as you plot how to sneak into their hideout, and dodge bullets from their henchmen and henchwomen, but alas, this only happens in the movies.

I think the benefits of these activities would be similar to juggling, if juggling isn’t for you. The good thing about juggling though is the very immediate feedback you get when you don’t do it right – you keep dropping balls.

What does it mean to be cognitively fit? According to – Goizueta Business School of Emory University, Department of Psychiatry, Atlanta, USA

Cognitive fitness will help you be more open to new ideas and alternative perspectives. It will give you the capacity to change your behavior and realize your goals. You can delay senescence for years and even enjoy a second career. Drawing from the rapidly expanding body of neuroscience research as well as from well-established research in psychology and other mental health fields, the authors have identified four steps you can take to become cognitively fit: understand how experience makes the brain grow, work hard at play, search for patterns, and seek novelty and innovation. Together these steps capture some of the key opportunities for maintaining an engaged, creative brain.

In other words, the brain is like a muscle: Use it or lose it. Just as un-exercised muscle atrophies, so does the brain, making it less sharp, and increasing the risk for developing dementia. While almost any form of exercise can increase blood flow to the brain, this isn’t the same thing as giving your brain a workout.

A regular cognitive workout is a positive feedback loop: the more cognitively fit you are, the more likely you are to try new things, which in turn can improve your cognitive fitness even further, which allows you to try even more new things, etc.

So if you are bored with your current fitness routine, consider doing activities that also give your mind a workout. Cognitive fitness is just as important as body fitness.

How juggling is very different from other forms of exercise

I hope everyone is having a good year so far. I am slowly improving my juggling technique and want to share my impressions of the road to getting to advanced juggling and the benefits of juggling.

One of the worst things about juggling is it is very unforgiving of poor technique and effort. But this is also one of the best things about juggling. Not giving it your all means you are much more likely to drop the balls. You can’t fool yourself into thinking you are putting in more effort than you really are.

It is often too easy to fool yourself with other forms of exercise, while walking or even running, on certain exercises machines, or doing martial arts or dance aerobics, etc. In this way, jumping rope is similar to juggling in that you can’t get away with poor technique – the rope will eventually catch your leg if you do it wrong. This is one of the reasons I sometimes recommend jumping rope as a prerequisite to fitness juggling. The rope won’t lie to you. In juggling, the balls won’t lie to you either. A good juggling form is a thing of beauty, and in beauty there is truth.

This makes juggling balls one of the best, most accurate feedback mechanisms when it comes to fitness. They are an excellent teacher for so many different exercisers, even if juggling or joggling isn’t their main form of exercise. This would probably make joggling one of the best forms of cross-training for running – since joggling is less forgiving of bad posture than running, it would be a good idea to use your joggler’s posture while running, to ensure good form. Screenshot-MVI_0579.AVI-2

Good form and coordination requires you to pay attention, to use your brain. Juggling is one of the very few exercises outside of playing some sports that targets your brain. Studies even show brain growth in parts of the brain that control movement. Think of the brain like a muscle – use it or lose it. It would require a whole series of posts or even a dissertation to explain why juggling is so neglected in the fitness world, and how to overcome this.