Multiple sclerosis(MS) is a degenerative inflammatory disease of the brain and spinal cord. It’s many symptoms, which include weakness, numbness, confusion, stiffness, and blurred vision, are due to the breakdown(demylination) of the myelin sheath, which is the important layer of insulation that surrounds part of our nerve cells. Our nervous system can’t function properly without this insulation. Similarly, an electronic device can’t function properly without plastic insulation around its wires. This insulation can also, in theory, help protect a person working with the wires, unless the person happens to be me(I still have tiny burn marks all over my fingers from years of tinkering).
The ultimate cause of this disease is unknown. What we do know is that the immune system is attacking the nervous system of MS patients(or the cells fail to produce myelin). It’s like your immune system consists of nothing but traitors, if you have MS. What causes the immune system to attack the nervous system is the big mystery. For reasons not yet understood, it is more common in women. Everything from viruses to toxins to lawyers are suspected of causing this disease, but so far research hasn’t discovered anything definitive.
While there is no cure for MS, there are a variety of drugs for controlling the symptoms. They may not work for everyone, but they can help many MS sufferers be more functional.
Which brings us to the question: Can exercise help treat or prevent MS? According to Sports Medicine(2008), Exercise and brain health–implications for multiple sclerosis: Part 1–neuronal growth factors:
The benefits of regular exercise to promote general health and reduce the risk of hypokinetic diseases associated with sedentary lifestyles are well recognized. Recent studies suggest that exercise may enhance neurobiological processes that promote brain health in aging and disease. A current frontier in the neurodegenerative disorder multiple sclerosis (MS) concerns the role of physical activity for promoting brain health through protective, regenerative and adaptive neural processes. Research on neuromodulation, raises the possibility that regular physical activity may mediate favourable changes in disease factors and symptoms associated with MS, in part through changes in neuroactive proteins. Insulin-like growth factor-I appears to act as a neuroprotective agent and studies indicate that exercise could promote this factor in MS. Neurotrophins, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor likely play roles in neuronal survival and activity-dependent plasticity. Physical activity has also been shown to up-regulate hippocampal BDNF, which may play a role in mood states, learning and memory to lessen the decline in cognitive function associated with MS. In addition, exercise may promote anti-oxidant defences and neurotrophic support that could attenuate CNS vulnerability to neuronal degeneration. Exercise exposure (preconditioning) may serve as a mechanism to enhance stress resistance and thereby may support neuronal survival under heightened stress conditions. Considering that axonal loss and cerebral atrophy occur early in the disease, exercise prescription in the acute stage could promote neuroprotection, neuroregeneration and neuroplasticity and reduce long-term disability. This review concludes with a proposed conceptual model to connect these promising links between exercise and brain health.
Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
This sounds promising. It is already known that exercise can help release nerve growth factors that can benefit the brain and nervous system, so it makes sense that it could help prevent or treat a degenerative disease of the nervous system.
It’s amazing all the different chemicals released due to exercise – it is important to note that it also helps us maximize our own antioxidant defenses. Yes, that is correct, our bodies make their own antioxidants to deal with the effects of free radicals, so you don’t need to megadose with antioxidant pills after exercise. However, it’s still a good idea to eat food rich in antioxidants, since the phytochemicals and vitamins that have these antioxidant effects may have other beneficial effects.
Now the above study doesn’t mention anything about which exercises in particular are most beneficial for MS patients. I think it is safe to assume that walking or tai chi would be beneficial.
Is there any exercise that specifically targets the brain? Why juggling of course!
According to BBC News in their article, Juggling Increases Brain Power:
Complex tasks such as juggling produce significant changes to the structure of the brain, according to scientists at Oxford University.
In the journal, Nature Neuroscience, the scientists say they saw a 5% increase in white matter – the cabling network of the brain.
The people who took part in the study were trained for six weeks and had brain scans before and after.
Long term it could aid treatments for diseases like multiple sclerosis.
Toward the end of the article:
Dr Johansen-Berg said there were clinical applications for this work but there were a long way off.
She said: “Knowing that pathways in the brain can be enhanced may be significant in the long run in coming up with new treatments for neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, where these pathways become degraded.”
Professor Cathy Price, of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, said: “It’s extremely exciting to see evidence that training changes human white matter connections.
“This complements other work showing grey matter changes with training and motivates further work to understand the cellular mechanisms underlying these effects.”
As I understand it, an important component of the “white matter” in the brain is myelin, the nerve covering that slowly degenerates in MS sufferers.
It is early, but this is showing promise. Even if juggling can’t prevent this or other serious neurological diseases, I’ll still do it just because its such a fun exercise.
Posted in exercise, fitness, health, joggling, Juggling
Tagged degenerative diseases, diseases of nervous system, exercise and multiple sclerosis, inflammatory diseases, juggling and multiple sclerosis, juggling and the brain, juggling and white matter, multiple sclerosis, myelin sheath, nervous system, spinal cord, treatments for multiple sclerosis
I have always loved this quote:
“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” - Joshua J. Marine
This is a new record for me, joggling 20.5 miles. It took me 3 hours and 42 minutes to complete this journey yesterday. The magenta line on the map above was my path, starting in the south in northern Mount Vernon then following the South County trail(A former rail line) all the way up almost to Elmsford and back to Mount Vernon. The weather was dry and mostly sunny, with the temperature rising from just below 75 F(23.8 C) to almost 80 F(26.6 C) toward the end of the run in the early afternoon. I brought juice with me and had a very short break from juggling(but not running) to drink it on the return trip.
Even though I went further than my 18 mile adventure to White Plains, my overall pace has improved: 10 minutes, 50 seconds per mile this time, versus 11 minutes, 40 seconds per mile on the White Plains run. To improve my speed, I did no tricks except for “tennis” occasionally, and I dropped the balls only once during the entire run. This is yet another record, since I went 2 hours and 35 minutes(about 15 miles) before my first drop.
The South County trail is great for running and cycling. The entire trail is paved and smooth, unlike most of the Croton Aqueduct trail, so a lot of cyclists go at maximum speed. It stretches 14.1 miles from the Bronx all the way up to Elmsford in the north. It runs parallel and very close to the Saw Mill Parkway much of the time and at times highway 87. From Yonkers to about Hastings, it runs through some light industrial areas, but becomes more forested as you go further north. The trail does occasionally cross some streets, and there are few steep hills. Overall, it is less picturesque than the Croton Aqueduct trail which overlooks the Hudson river in some areas and is to the west.
The North County trail(which I am less familiar with), and South County trail, which is the one I ran on, are really the same trail, separated by a gap in the village of Elmsford. I believe they are currently working on connecting them, since the entire trail is built on an abandoned rail line. Once they are connected, this means a bike trail connecting the Bronx to Putnam county!
I’ll be drinking a lot of cherry juice, and eating a lot of nuts to help me heal from this very long run. As usual, my legs feel a more sore than my arms.
Posted in exercise, fitness, joggling, Juggling, New York, running, trails/outdoors
Tagged Hastings-On-Hudson, Irish famine park, route 87, Saw Mill Parkway, South County trail, Westchester trails, yonkers
A lot of people I know would love to learn how to juggle, but find it very difficult and eventually give up. I wish they wouldn’t give up so early. It’s such an enjoyable activity that is a great arm and mind exercise. It can also help improve hand/eye coordination.
So I am always looking for ways to make learning to juggle a lot easier. Something that may help novices throw their first 3 ball cascade flash(3 throws, 3 catches) is to meditate beforehand.
According to the Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, in the study, Meditation acutely improves psychomotor vigilance, and may decrease sleep need:
Novice meditators were tested on the PVT before each activity, 10 minutes after each activity and one hour later. All ten novice meditators improved their PVT reaction times immediately following periods of meditation, and all but one got worse immediately following naps. Sleep deprivation produced a slower baseline reaction time (RT) on the PVT that still improved significantly following a period of meditation. In experiments with long-term experienced meditators, sleep duration was measured using both sleep journals and actigraphy. Sleep duration in these subjects was lower than control non-meditators and general population norms, with no apparent decrements in PVT scores.
These results suggest that meditation provides at least a short-term performance improvement even in novice meditators. In long term meditators, multiple hours spent in meditation are associated with a significant decrease in total sleep time when compared with age and sex matched controls who did not meditate. Whether meditation can actually replace a portion of sleep or pay-off sleep debt is under further investigation.
It looks like meditation may help improve motor skills. So if you are struggling with juggling, try meditating first. You may not have to meditate for 40 minutes to get the benefits; perhaps as little as 10 to 15 minutes may help. Above all, relax and focus, get rid of all distractions. Meditation may also come in handy when you are making the transition to joggling.
Due to the focus juggling requires(at least in the early stages), it is for good reason it has long been called an “active meditation”.
I hope my fellow jogglers, runners, and outdoor enthusiasts are having as much fun as I am having this time of year.
This run took place on Wednesday, June 5th. The magenta line in the middle, from south to north and then back south to Mount Vernon was my journey. I joggled about 98% of the time, except when I had a water break and a very short bathroom break in the woods. It took me 3.5 hours to complete this 18 mile run, and the last hour was pretty rough. The juggling was so much easier than the running. There were many hills along the trail and it was a sunny day, in the low 70s, so I didn’t sweat that much. I did some juggling tricks much of the way.
I followed the Bronx river for much of the run, but then the trail that runs along it terminates in Scarsdale, amidst a lot of construction, so I had to use route 22 to get to White Plains. I’ve been drinking more cherry juice during and after long runs, and this may have helped me recover to the point that I was able to run 3 miles the day after this 18 miler, and 7.75 miles today.
Ordinarily, I just take a day off the day after very long runs. The soreness the day after this was pretty bad, but it is almost completely gone now. Remember, I don’t stretch before or after runs(scientific studies show it is useless, although I do a little back stretching and nothing else), and this may also be a factor in speedier recovery.
Posted in exercise, fitness, health, joggling, Juggling, New York, running, trails/outdoors
Tagged Bronx, Bronx river, cherry juice, distance joggling, distance running, Greenville, Hartsdale, Mount Vernon, route 22, Scarsdale, stretching, westchester, White Plains
Many runners take Ibuprofen or other NSAIDs(non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to deal with the soreness that is almost inevitable after running very long distances or races.
But do these drugs interfere with running?
According to researchers at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, as reported in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, Ibuprofen administration during endurance training cancels running-distance-dependent adaptations of skeletal muscle in mice:
Exercise training induces many adaptations in skeletal muscle, representative examples of which include an increase in the IIa myofibre and an increase in the capillary-to-fibre ratio (C:F ratio). Moreover, these phenomena are thought to be dependent on running distance. Ibuprofen is one non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is often used as an analgesic, but its effect on skeletal muscle adaptation during endurance training is unclear. In the present study, therefore, we administered ibuprofen to mice during running wheel exercise for four weeks, and examined its effects on the increase in the IIa myofibre and the C:F ratio in skeletal muscle. We observed a significant increase of the IIa myofibre and C:F ratio even in the presence of ibuprofen. Moreover, in untreated mice, there was a significant positive and strong correlation between these parameters and running distance. These results indicate that the increase in the IIa myofibre and the C:F ratio in skeletal muscle usually depend on running distance. Interestingly, we observed no significant correlation between these parameters and running distance in ibuprofen-administered mice. Moreover, we found no significant increase of these parameters when the running distance was significantly increased, in comparison with untreated mice. These results indicate that ibuprofen administration during endurance training cancels running-distance-dependent adaptations in skeletal muscle. This suggests that even if ibuprofen administration facilitates longer-distance running, no further effects of training on skeletal muscle can be expected.
Yes, this is still at an early stage of research, but this makes me glad I don’t take Ibuprofen or any other NSAIDs. It looks like interfering with the inflammatory process prevents proper recovery and adaptation, which is so important for getting better at running. If I must do something about soreness and inflammation, I will just drink tart cherry juice or take turmeric, which don’t usually have long-lasting effects. Also, dehydration can make NSAIDs more toxic to the liver and kidneys, so it is definitely not a good idea for people who run long distances in the heat to take NSAIDs.
A moderate amount of inflammation can help initiate healing, but too much can hinder it(it is also a factor in many diseases). Too little inflammation is also not good for similar reasons, so you do not want to turn the inflammatory response off completely.
Posted in fitness, health, joggling, nutrition, running
Tagged cherry juice inflammation, distance running and inflammation, drugs and athletics, Ibuprofen, Ibuprofen and sports, NSAIDs, NSAIDs and running
One of the keys to joggling is to access more of your vital life force, or “prana”. Your chakras are centers of vital life energy, sort of like batteries, and accessing the trapped quantum energy from them can strongly influence how well you perform.
How can we access this energy? By opening up an extra chakra and the infinite wisdom they contain. Most of us have one or more of them closed. But by opening up an extra chakra, you will not only be able to joggle, but will be able to do so for miles and miles in a powerful quantum chakra state. Remember that all energy is infinite wisdom transformed through self-love.
To open up an extra chakra, you must:
1) Stop eating all garlic and onions. These foods divert prana away from the arms and legs and toward the stomach, and will make it difficult to open up the chakras that will allow you to joggle, besides bad breath interfering with the desired quantum state. In scientific terms, halitosis interferes with quantum superposition. Eating garlic can also interfere with your dating life, unless you are dating an Italian, but this is a whole other issue.
2) Stand upside down on your hands or hang upside down for 15 minutes a day. This will draw blood to the head and upper body and help to force open the extra chakra you need to be able to joggle. This will allow your wisdom to be liberated.
3) Punch a man with red hair in the face. The red hair must be natural, and he must be at least 5’6″. You must punch him hard. You don’t have to fight him, you can run away very fast afterwards. The very masculine, very hostile energy coming from the angry redhead will help to completely open the closed chakra. If he punches back, it still counts. Remember that chakras are like wheels, and this act will cause the wheels to turn as quickly as possible, helping you toward advanced quantum phasing.
Only by doing these 3 things will you be able to joggle. If you do not go through with them, you will never be able to joggle.
The above is a satire.
Posted in exercise, fitness, health, humor, joggling, Juggling, nutrition, running
Tagged chakras, exercise satire, garlic, juggling and chakras, juggling and physics, juggling and science, mysticism, onions, opening a chakra, prana, pseudo-science, punching redheads, quantum mechanics, quantum physics, quantum pseudo-science, quantum superposition, quantum woo, redheads, running and chakras, satire, upside down, wisdom is energy, yoga
What I look like after 40 minutes of joggling outside when its 88 F(31 C).
1) Run at a slower pace.
2) Drink plenty of fluids that contain electrolytes(don’t forget to drink before running). Sports drinks are better than water in very hot weather. Make sure you are getting enough sodium and magnesium in particular.
3) Unless you are very used to running in the heat, take short breaks every 20 minutes both to cool off and to replace fluids.
4) Wear light colored clothing since these keep you cooler than dark colored clothing. Consider running bare-chested(guys only).
5) Apply sunscreen liberally. Not only to prevent sunburn and skin cancer, but because sun-damaged skin doesn’t sweat and cool off as efficiently.
6) If you’re new to running in very hot weather, give yourself a week to acclimate yourself. Don’t over do it. Your sweat glands need time to adjust.
7) Unless you’re a pro, don’t push yourself or try to set new records except on cooler days.
8) Joggling will make you sweat more than just running, so you may need even more water and electrolytes compared to regular runners if you joggle.
9) If it is dangerously hot, and humid, and there’s an ozone alert(which means poor air quality), consider running on a treadmill indoors.
10) If you believe you are experiencing heat exhaustion, stop exercising immediately and seek shelter in a cool place as soon as possible. Drink plenty of electrolyte-containing fluids if also dehydrated.
11) Avoid outdoor exercise during the time of day when the temperature is at its hottest.
Posted in exercise, fitness, health, joggling, nutrition, running
Tagged dehydration, distance running in the heat, electrolytes, exercising in the heat, extreme weather, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, joggling in the heat, running in extreme weather, sodium, sunscreen, sweat
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of very low breathing during sleep. Even if a person gets enough sleep, sleep apnea can negatively effect the quality of sleep. A person with this condition will very often feel unrefreshed upon waking in the morning.
Sleep apnea is more common in overweight people, but anyone can have this condition. There are many ways to treat it, but among the more unconventional is the didgeridoo. The didgeridoo is a wind instrument from Australia, invented by the aboriginal Australians over a thousand years ago. You will often hear the didgeridoo playing in movies or documentaries that feature the Australian outback.
According to the British Medical Journal(2006) in Didgeridoo playing as alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome: randomised controlled trial:
Regular didgeridoo playing is an effective treatment alternative well accepted by patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome.
Fascinating how this ancient flute-like instrument may help sleep apnea patients. It seems that to play the didgeridoo requires blowing into the instrument in a manner that is different from blowing into other wind instruments, and this may strengthen the muscles used for breathing. However, the evidence is preliminary and this kind of study has inherent flaws, the most obvious being “what kind of control group do we use?”. A control group of flute-players? A control group of people playing defective didgeridoos?
Another thing I would like to know is if a person with sleep apnea is already doing vigorous exercise on a regular basis, does the didgeridoo provide additional benefits on top of the respiratory benefits from exercise? After all, exercise shows some efficacy for treating sleep apnea as well, according to Sleep. 2011 Dec 1, The effect of exercise training on obstructive sleep apnea and sleep quality: a randomized controlled trial.
Still, even if playing the didgeridoo doesn’t help with sleep apnea, learning to play a new instrument can be a very rewarding experience. If you are planning a trip to Australia, you may even impress the natives.
Posted in fitness, health
Tagged Aborigines, Australia, Australian aborigines, Australian outback, didgeridoo, didgeridoo and sleep apnea, outback, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, wind instruments
There are so many fitness myths out there that it would require an encyclopedia to refute them all. Since I don’t have the time to write an encyclopedia, it makes a lot more sense to refute some of the most common fitness myths:
1) Junk miles – This is a common myth among many competitive runners. “Junk” miles are basically when a runner runs significantly slower than usual, which can be very disappointing for many runners. Some runners believe these miles don’t really count or they might as well just take a day off from running if all they are capable of is running “junk” miles.
However, running at any speed can help maintain your edge or your level of cardiovascular fitness. You don’t have to run fast every time you are out there. It’s perfectly normal to find yourself in a rut of under-performance every now and then, especially after very long runs or races. If the slowness lasts more than a week though, it could indicate a problem, especially if it is accompanied by soreness or an injury. “Junk” miles are often used an an excuse to not run outside in hot, or wet weather -”Why bother running in the rain if I will only be running junk miles?”
2) Running and cardio will cause you to lose muscle – This is a myth that is common among body-builders. Some are absolutely cardio-phobic. This myth prevents many people from having a more well-rounded fitness routine.
However, as long you eat enough, get enough rest, recover properly, and don’t overdo it, cardio won’t cause you to lose a significant amount of muscle. A good rule of thumb is to do strength-training first, and do cardio after. Doing strength-training first programs the body to prioritize muscle building for that day; doing cardio first will cause the body to prioritize cardiovascular fitness.
There are still a lot of areas of fitness where there aren’t clear cut answers, but not when it comes to these two common myths.
Posted in fitness, joggling, Juggling, nutrition, running, trails/outdoors
Tagged body-building, cardio causes you to lose muscle, cardio-phobia, cardio-phobic, do strength-training first, exercise myths, fitness myths, junk miles, junk miles are not junk, muscle growth, muscle wasting, strength training, which exercise to do first