Alzheimer’s disease floats in my gene pool. It’s the turd bobbing among the lily pads (blue eyes and long legs). Each time I forget an appointment or misplace my keys, I wonder if I should be selecting an assisted living facility while I can still make decisions.
Last week I had to give three media interviews on the same day for work. The first early morning appearance went fine, but I stuttered during the second one. For a moment I couldn’t figure out how to end a sentence. Lunchtime fell between the second and third interviews, so I hopped on the new mountain bike and rode to clear the brain clog. For about 30 minutes, my state of awareness was super-charged. You can’t ride mountain bike trails with a disengaged mind, at least not when you’re a beginner, because you’re going to hit something nasty. Rapid synaptic firing is the order of the moment:
Tree root coming up fast. Yeah, attack it. Hell, there’s a bigger one on the other side. Be aggressive, you can do it. Okay, that’s done. Uh-oh, rock. KILLER ROCK! Hard turn. Tree. No, two trees close together. Too close for the handlebars. Laugh. Hop off the bike and jog.
And that’s the internal yelping for only about five seconds. Imagine what it’s like over the course of a half-hour. This is your brain on mountain biking: a kick ass, red hot, hard firing engine.
The cerebral cortex atrophies just as surely as muscles without exercise. There is strong evidence to indicate physical exertion can stave off a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s. According to the director of Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Research Center, “Regular physical exercise is probably the best means we have of preventing Alzheimer’s disease today, better than medications, better than intellectual activity, better than supplements and diet.” It’s stunning how many diseases and conditions can be improved or controlled by exercise, yet only a small percentage of the population engages in it. There’s no question that exercise is saving my body, my sanity, and my mind. So maybe I don’t need to choose that retirement apartment just yet.
Oh, and that third interview of the day? Nailed it.