Introduction by Virginia Eaton —
If I offered you a pill to slow your aging, reduce your aches and pains, restore your mental function, and increase your energy, how much would you pay? Sadly, this fountain of youth does not yet come in pill form but a partial antidote to time’s march is available to most of us. The cost is quite reasonable and the side effects are minimal. The simple answer is: adding more movement to your life. If you find yourself lamenting the body you once had and the energy you once possessed, you are not alone.
Still, the day you give up on your body is the day your body goes into hibernation! It’s the use it or lose it principle. Don’t make your hibernation a permanent state — your fountain of youth is movement. To get more energy you must expend some energy. My friend Glenn Raggio recently reacquainted himself with this concept and rediscovered the powerful psychological and physical gifts that moving more have to offer. He was kind enough to share his experience in writing.
Written by Glenn Raggio —
I can’t recall when I first fell in love with my couch — always accepting me no matter my ills, my spills, my loose change and, of course, the physical abuse when my favorite sport teams lost.
Not surprising that, after 67 years, my couch has had many subsequent “cousins,” and — what decent, self-respecting couch would last without its favorite collaborator: the television!
I use the word collaborator on purpose because, in retrospect, I believe they did conspire to keep me comfortable, and “comfort” is the point I am going to softly argue against in the following paragraphs.
Years ago — okay, many years ago — I ran the fire trails above Stanford University. My endeavor began as a fast hike and graduated into much more as the steep grades and return falls built my leg strength to an incredible point. In time I began actually running the five-mile track.
My younger self took all this for granted. The most difficult task then was finding the “right” songs for my Walkman headphones. A fledgling writer, my early law enforcement career still awaited me.
I don’t recall what particular “issue” was on my mind as I ran one day, only that I was struggling with something I had no answers for, and even compromise seemed elusive. I might have used that issue for an excuse not to run on this day off, but I figured the run might be a fair distraction from the current conundrum.
The music had long before become predictable and the running was rote as I felt the familiar rush of blood to my head and my lungs expanding. Suddenly I felt as though I was running to an answer — the answer!
Some fresh search was going on in my brain, in an area where my couch, my friends, and my personal efforts had been no help at all. A door slowly opened or, was it that I now was prioritizing the issue and subsequent impact while looking at it from a completely different angle — a much wider angle. Resolution soon followed because I was able to step back from myself and my tunnel vision.
In retrospect I realized it was hardly the distraction of running, but the running itself that took me to my answers, and reasonable resolution.
In time my career, which spanned many more hours in a week than I had ever anticipated, left me looking for only comfort and rest. My body seemed to insist that I recover in such a way, and I habitually returned to being wed to my couch. The clothes still seemed to fit the same, and I ate poorly, but that was the nature of the career, I told myself. Life seemed as it should.
When recent events seemed to stall in that familiar old grey area, and my couch and its collaborator were no help at all, I decided quite arbitrarily to carry my golf clubs on the course, passing on the electric cart.
Somewhere on the back 9 my heart began to respond to the new challenge and a wonderful deja vu arose.
The good feeling even erased the angst of the double bogey I had just recorded. I was back on the trails, the rhythm and the pulse in my head playing the same wonderful “music,” and an “oldie,” if you will. I slipped quite comfortably into thinking about reasonable options for resolution of my issues and even noticed some errant assumptions I had made.
I confess I don’t read nearly as much as I should. I have relied on “listening” to things, rather than doing my own research, but in this case I was curious enough to investigate what was making my brain kick into high gear when my heart rate rose through exercise. Here’s what I found:
“It’s all about O2 and hormones… when you exercise, a hormone called BDNF is secreted and has the most amazing effect of increasing memory, mood and mental function of all kinds. BDNF and other exercise induced hormones protect, prevent and can control depression and anxiety.”
Not all love affairs are good for you, even some of the innate passions like mine for my couch.
When it’s all questions inside your head, and answers seem as elusive as unicorns, and it feels like Ground Hog Day — you might try walking or even running through the cobwebs that are attaching you to the current couch potato habit and feel some of the answers and solutions rise with your pulse. While the science behind this phenomenon is interesting, the reality has been an obvious oasis for me, and one I won’t ignore for the duration. Try making that couch of yours jealous from time to time!
Glenn Raggio is a freelance writer living in the foothills.