Yesterday I hiked Camelback mountain with a group of five friends. The terrain was steep and rocky. The trails were crowded, and the views were spectacular.
But perhaps the best part of the day was hiking along side 73-year-old Ann. Ann told us to "Go on ahead! I'll be right behind you, just going at my own pace." And indeed she was. About five minutes after we had reached the summit of Camelback, Ann came striding up to us with a smile on her face, just barely breaking a sweat. She had tackled the cliffs and the climbing and the aerobic workout as if it were a walk in the park. And I wanted to know her secret.
Ann has been hiking Camelback for over 30 years. Hiking the mountain has been part of her exercise regime that keeps her fit, alert, spunky and ageless. She hikes the trails at least three times a week when the weather is nice, and usually starts from the more challenging Echo Canyon trailhead. Since she's been around so long she has seen the trails fall into disrepair over the years. "But no one would probably realize that except for me," she says.
As we continued to chat, Ann stressed the important of aerobic exercise. She had just read the book called SPARK. (I ordered mine from Amazon on my ride home.) According to this book, she said, there is scientific evidence that aerobic exercise will stimulate and benefit your mind and brain.
"I could go do crossword puzzles to improve my memory, she said, "but exercise actually helps grow new cells in the brain!"
According to John Ratey, author of Spark, adding exercise to your lifestyle sparks your brain function to improve learning on three levels: First, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention, mood, and motivation; Second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and Third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus.
No wonder Ann looked so great!
I'm off to keep that spark going inside myself, so I can look and feel like Ann in 30 years. Now I'm off for a run!
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