“I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body.
Then I realized who was telling me this.” – Emo Phillips
Personally, I learned so much within the past week that I feel like my brain may start spilling out. It’s a good feeling. Some people like a similar feeling when they’ve exercised hard; their muscles feel weak and shaky from the stress. Not me. But I get it, when it comes to exercising my brain. The problem is, in order to keep a healthy brain we must move our bodies. If you’re concerned about Down syndrome and brain health for a person you love, step one: Move it.
I know, right?!
In fact, The New York Times recently reported in How Inactivity Changes the Brain:
“neurological studies have established that the brain retains plasticity, or the capacity to be reshaped, throughout our lifetimes. Exercise appears to be particularly adept at remodeling the brain, studies showed.”
A few months ago Marcus, for the first time, went to a clinic where the specialists focus on adults with Down syndrome. The phrase repeated: Keep Moving. Both the doctor and the dietician emphasized the importance of MOVING. The cardiologist a few weeks later – Keep Moving. Not to mention his fitness coach at The Bodysmith (who shared with us all notes about an exercise plan for people with Down syndrome.) Now I know what you’re thinking, “Duhhhh”
Well, my friends, it’s not as easy as it looks, is it?
As I was on the treadmill at The Bodysmith – (yes me) a few weeks ago I heard the owner, Brad Dienstbier, point out that even if you work out an hour a day (AN HOUR A DAY?!?) and you work in an office, you’re still very sedentary for, oh, say about 23 other hours of the day. I heard this as I was trying – TRYing – to go 10 minutes on the treadmill. Thinking the whole time – If I burn 100 calories, I can have a small coke. So I’m not the best influence.
But enough about me,
what about Marcus and the intrinsic qualities to his brain?
There are scientists who study the brains of people with Down syndrome, who are working to understand ways to improve cognitive functions, perhaps through pharmaceuticals but also through nutrition, lifestyle and sleep. At the 321 eConference I learned about the work of many who are part of the LuMind Foundation. I will be following their work and sharing more with you as well. Yea Us!
This isn’t the first time I’ve participated in an on-line conference about Down syndrome brain health. So I can’t say I was surprised to hear – again – get moving!
Admittedly, even in the short term, Marcus is more lucid and in a better mood at the end of a day when he has a to-do list instead of a day of lazy. Some people (person), who shall not be named but is a parent of Marcus and not me, is inclined to let Marcus watch TV all day and not encourage or require chores or similar activity. Frankly, this is not good for Marcus. The days he works from his to-do list (even moving the laundry and unloading the dishwasher are better than only sitting), I swear his mood at the end of the day is better. But is that enough?
Sedentary lifestyle, it’s an apt description for many adults with disabilities. Limited transportation to safe places to walk, wander, dance, or play. Limited finances for access to community fitness centers. And frankly, limited understanding by many caregivers of the importance of this issue.
The fact is Marcus is hyper-sensitive to wind so taking a walk around the block is rarely an option. Plus, I hate to admit, I’ve only let him go that far alone on Halloween. If he’s going to move somewhere, I need to be there or make arrangements that I am comfortable with his safety.
What can we do?
Good news! Today I saw this:
Dancing has been proven to make you smarter and healthier.
— UberFacts (@UberFacts) March 25, 2014
SO – Maybe we need to dance more. What else is there? If I can ever get the DHHS to come through, there’s a great program called HETRA, Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy, he’s showing some interest in. (But requires money, so we’ll wait and see.) We are not what you’d call “Outdoorsy” people, but with spring coming there’s always a chance for walks around the zoo.
I’ve said it before, but the struggle with time is a terrible excuse because if we take care of our bodies and brains, we are buying more time! However, well, you know…
SO – WHAT DO WE DO?
Seriously. I’m asking. What do we do?
What do you do to get your family moving?
You can see how important it is. Let’s brainstorm!
And while you think it over – get up and Move it!
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Great post Mardra! Time is in short supply for most but there are ways you can get more activity in that don’t require a lot of additional time or going to a gym. Think always taking the stairs, parking far away from your destination etc. These may seem simple but little bits of extra activity will add up big over time. Keep up the great work!
Great Advice Brad. Thank you for stopping by 🙂
Yep — feeling MAJOR guilt right now…. THANKS buddy!!! 😉
Luckily, I took Marcus with me to The Bodysmith today, normally one of his non-workout days. Whew!
What a fabulous post and apologies for (my tired brain conking out and not allowing me to) replying sooner. You are so very right and we all know we feel better for fresh air and excersise and being busy, but it is tricky. I too cannot name someone who would let our grils watch TV and eat biscuits ‘becuase they want to’ but just watch where my eyes roll….
Thanks for the link-up Hayley. I still haven’t caught up on March’s reading, and now April has come with more to do! 🙂