Ageing in Good Health & Cheer

Exercising what is invisible but soon apparent

A few weeks ago, a friend had mentioned exercises to keep his ageing mind fit. We all who are born, will age; child to adult at the very least, or to be a great-grand-parent for the chosen ones.

While some look very good for their age compared to fellow city dwellers, the decline inside may not get noticed easily. For example, a family member you see everyday may be losing weight very fast due to some illness; but because we see him / her everyday at home without spending much time with them -- a major illness may go unnoticed till it becomes fatal.

Making time for every family member and friend is easier said than done. Yet many aspire and achieve that goal.

What about your own body, mind & spirit?

Everyone's body type and food preferences is different or they truly have no choice on that anymore. Basic physical exercises such as push-ups, squats, stretching, are the bare minimum most can quickly start with.

Coming to spirit: that too differs, even within close-knit families.

So I will suggest a few things for the mind which most in Western world can easily get hold of & practice.

Mind is the primary key that unlocks the potential of your body and spirit. It can make a grown man cry or a timid woman hit back. Keeping it sharp however, is essential also for basic neuro-motor functions of your body.

Your digestion, blood-flow, immunity, muscle memory, et al is as important as remembering the neighbour's grandchild's name or that you are wearing the reading glasses you are hunting so desperately.

If you are lucky (or not a complete a**hole), you probably grow old in company of a family member. So get yourself & others at home trained in basic first-aid.

Mental Exercises:
These are suggestions and alternatives, don’t attempt to learn and play them all everyday. Don’t keep score, just play for joy, like a child. These are recreation, just as we listen to the radio music in a car. Something that avoids boredom of the mind.

1. Be careful not to set yourself a challenge that wears down your heart & mind (and precious time). Have a realistic goal-setting, planned step-by-step. Using a metaphor -- just wear those pants one leg at a time.

2. Start with Crosswords and Sudoku. Not the very difficult ones you see in daily newspapers or online. If you dont trust a particular mobile app, just buy a Crossword or Sudoku book in paperback. Select a level at which a 13 to 14 year-old school kid would be happy solving (instead of lighting a joint with the paper).

3. Combination of words and numbers is great. There will be Puzzle books with a wide variety of such. They cost lot more than the average "Grisham" or "King" but also those puzzles dont insult your intellect with a primary school level explanation of its plot.

4. In business, specialty gives bigger opportunities. Hence just buy a copy each of a crossword book and Sudoku book, if the puzzles hold less value Vs price.

5. Visualization: Get a standard size chess set. Nope, ain't trying to kill you yet. Just use the free puzzle generator at open-source non-profit website

If you don't know, you can learn how the alphanumeric notations of games are written and read. Then, memorize the unique names of each of the 64 squares.

Where is e5? Now on the opposite side, the opponent moved his knight -- what is that square called? Where is the knight in chess-language?

Compare the computer screen position with the physical chess-set you can feel in your hands, feel psychologically as Gary Kasparov calls it (he blundered using 3D imagery playing against IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer).

Our mind needs to not only see the problem, but feel the problem. This will also develop your intuition and gut instinct, though may not make you a Grand Master in your 60s. 

This alphanumeric exercises work for visualization and memory very well if you make the same moves on a physical chess set while also first referring the automated computer screen (levels can be set for beginners & no need to increase it unless you have time for doing more than a regular mental workout).

6. Read! Everyday! I cannot stress this more. You got to read a few pages of whatever holds your interest -- business, sports, fiction, a joke book -- just read something, as your Momma and school teacher commanded you decades ago.

Get a general interest magazine, there is a wide choice of it for both men and women. Trust me, its way better than reading the news and getting your blood boiling everyday like clockwork.

7. Walking is the easiest activity that exercises your entire body, from head to toe. Your motor skills balance you and your legs are moving in changing strides depending on what you see around you, then your heart & lungs are quietly chugging the oxygen while informing your brain neurons that you are either getting tired or the skin suggests the weather is unsuitable. Appetite develops and you remember you got other things on your plate today, projects, hobbies, surprise trip to an old friend, etc.

8. Try these, one at a time, unless you are truly healthy and not overconfident. I look forward to your feedback, so that this article becomes a conversation -- and following conversations is a great mental exercise on its own. Just ask old "discussion forum" users on that, or following long chain of email replies at offices which have multiple participants.

9. Most of all, be joyful in your nature. A physical smile with your greetings and handshakes will train your brain to be a happy little squirrel, exploring new things and always finding your way back home. The mind learns from its actions which in turn become habits; and a smiling pleasant nature will take root deep within your heart.

10. No need to force yourself to learn meditation if you find it cumbersome or unsuitable to your lifestyle. Instead, try contemplation. Every night, as you lay in bed, think and trace the whole day. What did you do after you woke up? Did you keep your appointments or goals? Get that item in the grocery or collect your cheque at a bank? What was the wonderful part of the whole day? Does it give your heart and mind some peace knowing it was a memorable or busy day? Would you like to catch up on some movies or music this weekend to reward yourself?

* * * * The Beginning of a Fitness Journey * * * *

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