Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Primal Blueprint Insider

It's easy to get bogged down in the specifics of following a healthy lifestyle. It's certainly tempting to obsess over carb counts, micronutrient profiles, and supplementation - and there's nothing inherently wrong with paying close attention to what you're putting into and doing to your body. I do it myself, but I also constantly remind myself that optimum health is a lot simpler than the "experts" would have you believe. Sometimes what's needed is an easy solution. Sometimes the easy, simple way is actually the best route.

That said, I have a very simple proposition for you (maybe you're noticing a trend since the last fasting proposition; my Health Challenges tend to be pretty damn simple): take a walk. Grab a friend, or a significant other, or even a pet if the others aren't available, and take a brisk, leisurely walk around the neighborhood. Spend at least an hour, if you can. And if you don't have that hour, get it. Make it a priority. Remember, this is a formal challenge.  

If you like, keep your heart rate slightly elevated throughout the course of the walk, but not necessarily for fitness reasons. Not physical fitness, anyhow. Although walking is a huge part of the Primal Blueprint approach to fitness, this health challenge revolves around the mental-stimulatory effects of walking. I'm interested in mental acuity; in conversational fitness.

One thing I've noticed about my evening walks with Carrie, my wife, is that they are incredibly stimulating. While I'm not by any stretch of the term a reserved conversationalist in my normal life, when I'm on that walk she can barely get a word in edgewise. My thoughts just flow and coalesce into a constant, steady flow of verbiage. If you ask her, she probably misses the silence. If you ask me, I'm just thankful there's an easy, healthy way to clear my mind and get the juices flowing.

Of course, I had to get to the bottom of it. I wasn't happy just with results; I crave scientific explanations. One obvious explanation was that physical movement increases blood flow, which in turn results in more nutrients/oxygen/etc delivered to the brain. The more nutrients and oxygen our brain gets, the more efficient it performs. That made sense, and anyone who's ever experienced the stress relief and endorphin release following a workout would agree. Also, the simple act of performing movements - like walking - requires the brain's engagement. Your brain directing your legs to move can be considered a mental workout for your neurocircuitry.

Adding a walking buddy to the mix just means a better mental workout. Think of it as walking and chewing gum - asking your brain to perform two tasks at the same time is more stimulating than asking it to perform just one. When you're outside on a walk with a friend or loved one, imagine the stimuli your brain has to deal with. Rather than staring at some mindless, close-captioned talk show on the gym television while padding along on the treadmill, your brain is actually doing several things at once when you're on a real walk with another person: directing your side of the conversation, regulating your legs' locomotion, receiving and interpreting sensory input like smells (okay, you can get these at the gym) and sights. The added stimuli literally get your brain working harder, and the thoughts, words, and activity are ramped up. That's why people pace when deep in thought, or get up and move around when they're hit with writer's block. Physical activity can get everything flowing.

So tonight, or tomorrow night, go on a walk. Take your wife, or your husband, or your friend, and keep the pace brisk and the conversation flowing. It's a great way to decompress from what may have been a stressful day - or it can make a good day even better.

Mark Sisson

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