With all of us getting older, finding challenging ways to sharpen the brain is a top priority for my Fitness classes. After my heart surgery a few years ago, and especially after my first colonoscopy last year, I’ve noticed the light bulb in front of the memory bank has dimmed. There are health studies which show that anesthesia has a way of affecting our memory. Knowing this makes sharpening the brain my daily goal.
My personality demands variety and I guess that’s one of the reasons I am drawn to so many different forms and genres of exercise each week. Changing things up, even just a little, forces the students, along with myself, to think about what we are doing. There are a gazillion health studies which prove that staying active and doing physical exercise helps to keep our brains sharp. I prefer teaching aerobic classes which incorporate balance, cardio and strength. Of course you should also include doing something totally different than you are used to doing, like learning a new skill; knitting, ball room dancing, cross word puzzles, playing bridge, etc.
My Senior Strength Training students will tell you we work on balance and strength in every class. Our brains, when we age, need healthy activity, so anything which spikes your heart will spark brain activity. Balance training is especially good for the brain; our eyes, ears, muscles, nerves and brain, all work together keeping us upright. By not remaining physically active as we age, we become vulnerable to losing our balance. Here’s a simple test to check your balance; Stand bare foot on the floor, close your eyes and lift one foot off the floor about six inches. See how long you can stand on one foot until you start to sway and lose your balance. This test will help determine your functional age. Holding you balance 10 seconds, well, you may want to start working to improve your balance skills. If you hold your balance with your eyes closed and no swaying or movement up to 28 seconds, then you are doing very well!
The good news is we can work on improving our balance, stability and brain power. This is why I teach a variety of classes like; Pilates, which involves core strength and flexibility, Total Body Challenge that incorporates strength, cardio and core, Step Power which is all about balance and strength, Strength Training that incorporates lifting weights and using different resistances like stretch bands, weighted bars and the stability ball to challenge the body and brain. I cannot imagine what my brain function would be without exercise. My husband said that would take one big imagination.
But before we jump into brain training, perhaps we should spend some time focusing our minds on what God has spoken to us about in His Word. If our mindset is out of kilter, our physical workouts will not be as effective as they could be. Thinking which is out of sorts can leave us off balance and will impact every area of our life.
In Colossians 3:2-5 it says, “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshipping the things of this world.” Also, Philippians 4:8 says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praises.” These are all voluntary things, but if your heart is in alignment with Jesus, these ways will come more naturally within your daily walk.
Joyce Meyers is famous for the phrase “stinking thinking”, and while occasionally I have allowed my thinking to smell like an old pair of dirty basketball shoes, I have decided to place my thoughts under God’s control. We must recognize that our thinking controls how we do life. Pardon the pun but it should be a “no brainer.” With a positive outlook on life, challenges may knock you down, but they won’t keep you down. Most important of all, when you face challenges with a positive outlook your witness stands tall for the Lord. For those choosing to see the class half empty, dirty, smudged, germy, and the like, challenging times seem to come more often. They live their life wearing a “stinky face.” Christians wearing a stinky face is not a pretty sight!
Second Corinthians reminds us to “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This requires full cranial engagement. I ask God to guide me through my foggy thoughts and steer me to His light. Then on a daily basis I ask God to renew my mind as it says in Romans 12:2. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Taking this test allows me to clearly see when my thoughts are stinking up my thinking.
Lastly, God wants us to experience His peace. Consider and meditate on Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”
My grand babies love the book by Lisa McCourt “I love you, Stinky Face.” The child in the story, after suggesting many different ways he could be unlovable, asks his mother “would you still love me?” Finally, after the little boy’s eyes are heavy with sleep he says, “I love you, Mama.” And she says, “And I love you my wonderful child.” God loves us so, so much, even when we wear the stinky face. God, our Father, loves us so much he sent His son Jesus. And, He calls us His wonderful children.