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“If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn’t” – Watson, Lyall
I hope everyone is having a splendid winter so far. Unfortunately, many people find it difficult to engage in outdoor or even indoor exercise this time of year due to the winter blues. Some people may even experience major depression caused by the shorter days, and may find it difficult to crawl out of their warm, cozy bed. If it is very cold outside, some folks won’t even venture outside.
In part, genetics may play a role. Indeed, slowing down and feeling depressed during the winter may be related to the hibernation response in other animals- Metabolic depression in hibernation and major depression: an explanatory theory and an animal model of depression.
This is fascinating research. It’s not necessarily easy to “prove” anything either way with this kind of speculation; even if it were “proven” that depression is related to hibernation, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to “hibernate” if you feel depressed, unless you are a bear. Understanding that there is a connection between the two could lead to a better understanding of depression and more effective ways to overcome it.
What we know already may already be helpful for some. In many animals, the hibernation response is turned on by light deprivation due to shorter winter days and/or lower temperatures. SAD(seasonal affective disorder) is a form of depression that tends to affect people more during the winter. Lack of light may play a role, and so logically, “light therapy” by using a light box in the morning may be beneficial for those affected – Seasonal affective disorder: an overview.
If you have eye problems though, using a light box may not be a good idea. It doesn’t work for everyone since the brain is very complex and we all have our own unique biochemistry. Some people are more sensitive to light than others. Whatever you do, keep on exercising, and try to expose yourself to extra light in the morning if you have SAD. If you think you have serious depression, seek professional help.
I must admit that I sometimes feel a little blue in the morning this time of year, but a quick juggle or some exercises and turning on all the lights seems to help me quickly overcome it. It is nothing serious luckily. I never drink coffee or caffeinated beverages, so I have to rely on intense exercise, and sometimes eating or drinking something very spicy to help wake up my system.
I don’t joggle early in the morning usually(though I often juggle a little), since I tend to drop the balls too much if I joggle soon after waking(the darkness doesn’t help) and I often don’t have the time anyway. I just do it later in the day. On the rare occasion I do a long, very early morning joggle(I mean around 5:30 AM to 7:00 AM), I notice I am slowly improving. Ideally, I’d like to do more joggling at this time of day, and so I continue to study various approaches to quickly overcoming early morning grogginess without caffeine. I’m open to any new suggestions.
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.
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.
Blueberries may be one of the best foods for keeping your brain healthy. According to research at Tufts university, Blueberry supplementation enhances signaling and prevents behavioral deficits in an Alzheimer disease model. This sounds very promising, although this study used rats instead of humans.
A study using humans at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center showed “The findings of this preliminary study suggest that moderate-term blueberry supplementation can confer neurocognitive benefit and establish a basis for more comprehensive human trials to study preventive potential and neuronal mechanisms.” Basically, blueberry consumption improved memory, and according to the same study “there were trends suggesting reduced depressive symptoms”.
This is quite impressive for something that often grows in bogs in the northern U.S. Blueberries tend to get a lot of attention due to their antioxidant power – if antioxidants were like muscle power, blueberries would consistently knock out all the other fruits and vegetables and be the antioxidant heavy weight champion(the only fruits that scored higher were dried so their antioxidant power became more concentrated). This antioxidant power comes from its very high amount of anthocyanins, the reddish, purplish, blueish pigments that gives it its distinctive color. However, the antioxidant effects of anthocyanins only partially explains their neuro-protective effects and other health benefits. There is so much else going on, with anthocyanins also having possible anti-carcinogenic effects. Cranberries, which are in the same genus as blueberries, have similar benefits. The bilberry is the European cousin of the North American blueberry – in Spanish however they are both called “arándano”.
All these studies cited(even from previous posts) only focus on one particular substance or therapy. Imagine combining them. Imagine the synergistic effects on the brain of blueberry consumption combined with exercise and juggling on patients with cognitive problems – can it also enhance brain function in people who are young and healthy? Obviously, more research needs to be done, but what we do know suggests strongly we should be eating more fruits and vegetables, especially the dark, richly colored ones.
There is so much you can do to keep your brain young, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It is so secret that by far the best way to prevent dementia is exercise. It is almost a truism – active people tend to age more slowly than couch potatoes. Just like muscle, “use it or lose it” applies to your brain and its 86 billion or so neurons(if you have counted your neurons recently and discover you have a little less, don’t worry!).
The second best way to prevent a decline in neurological function is to engage in brain-stimulating activities, like doing puzzles, or learning new skills. Playing chess is excellent brain stimulation.
Also, generally speaking, the more educated a person is, the lower their risk for dementia or alzheimers.
This is why fitness juggling is such powerful preventive medicine. It’s the ultimate all-in-one exercise/brain stimulating activity. Joggling would be even better, so long as you don’t bump into any trees or people. Or you can simply move around a lot or dance while juggling at home to make it even more fun and challenging if you can’t run. Why should fitness be boring?
Your brain is an amazing natural wonder. It is your greatest asset and deserves to be protected and stimulated. Love your brain and it will love you back.
Have fun juggling!
I believe juggling to be one of the most ignored of all fitness activities. It’s not just for circus performers. Not only does juggling burn around the same amount of calories as a brisk walk, it also improves hand/eye coordination and can help grow grey matter in the brain. I think the reason relatively few people interested in fitness consider juggling for exercise is its association with clowns and circuses. This is unfortunate.
Juggling for fitness can be done alone or during many forms of aerobic exercise; in the form of joggling, which is juggling while running, it is arguably the ultimate form of exercise. To get more people excited about juggling and joggling in particular for fitness is one of the main purposes of this blog. The “wild” in “wild juggling” is all about fitness juggling while walking, or hiking, or having fun in the great outdoors, as opposed to doing it to entertain others(not that there is anything wrong with it!). You can juggle almost anywhere. Joggling is both challenging and fun.
Above all, go wild with your juggling. It’s one of the best ways to spice up your fitness routine and burn some extra calories if you must, while having fun!