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Fitness: Learning Lights the Brain

by Marilynn Preston

screen-shot-2013-10-29-at-1-09-32-pmLearning new stuff is part of a healthy lifestyle, and it’s hardwired into us, ever since the first kindergarten class convened in the caves of Lascaux. Acquiring new thoughts, learning new things – a language, how to fix a flat, why fake foods are the sucker’s choice – is how we grow our brains, stimulating whatever is left after seven hours of small screen media a day.

So here’s my challenge to you, dear readers:

To begin, sit in a quiet corner – no dunce cap allowed – and calm your mind. Thoughts will arise; let them go. Focus on your breath and stop peeking at your watch. Ask yourself: What would you like to study between now and the end of the year that would fill a gap, fulfill a dream, move yourself down the path to more energy, greater joy and looser jeans?

Keep your eyes closed as you consider some possibilities.


Your medical doctor doesn’t know much about nutrition, so why should you? I’ll tell you why. Until you study and understand what it means to nourish your body with real, clean, unprocessed food, you’ll be bamboozled by every fad diet that comes down the pike.
We’re talking billions of dollars spent on belly fat removal schemes that are insanely unreliable. It’s a scam, a fraud – “lose 10 pounds while you sleep!” – and still we’re surrounded by an endless parade of weight-loss ads that prey on our collective ignorance. They only serve to feed our desire for a quick fix.


Now is a good time to learn your lesson once and for all. End the drama. Dump your gimmicky diets. Learn to cook and eat meals that are healthy and delicious.



Acquire the knowledge that will guide you. Too many ingredients? Too many suspect additives? Just say no. And just say yes to taking a class, going online, finding a teacher – however you learn best. All sorts of courses are getting started daily.


Everyone knows that exercise is a good thing. It increases your strength, lifts your spirits and makes your heart stronger, so you can last longer. That’s easy. The harder part is finding a way to love it. Once you’re hooked on the pleasure of your routine, you won’t want to miss it. And that’s how lifelong healthy habits are developed.

So between now and the end of the year, discover new ways to bring more joy to your routine. If you’re bored with running, tired of tennis, soft on swimming, shake it up, baby, and switch to something new. Tango! Tae Kwan Do! yoga! That’s the one that hooked me years ago and taught me a very big lesson about what it takes to stay strong, flexible and well juiced. But don’t follow me or anyone else. Be authentic. Find the mix of physical activity – including aerobic sports – that get your juices flowing, your body glowing and feels like fun to you.


Not having enough hours in the day is the number one reason people don’t exercise. It’s time to graduate to a more evolved way of thinking. This teaching is from the Carpe Diem School of Timekeepers. Seize the day. Own it. Plan it. See where you have wiggle room and decide what your priorities are.

I can only hope that personal health – physical and mental – is one of them. If not, why are you reading this column? If yes, begin to keep a calendar or a daily journal. (I like paper, but someday, that won’t even be an option.)

So look at the week ahead and schedule in your exercise time like it’s a dentist appointment, only better. Plan for a minimum of 30 minutes, three times a week. Of course, more is better – up to a point – but start where you are. If you’ve only got 20 minutes, grab it. When you make exercise part of your day, it soon becomes part of your life, and you look for times to schedule it instead of finding excuses to avoid it.

Marilynn Preston – fitness expert, well-being coach and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues – is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitnesscolumn in the country. She has a website, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to



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