David Amerland
Exercise, mental health and fitness


Exercise has been central to my life since I was young enough to have memories. At age eight my dad strapped 8oz boxing gloves to my hands and made me fend off the half-speed punches he was throwing with his own. Two years later, every Sunday, he would leave me in the wake of his sprinting down a proper running track as he tried to show me how to sprint properly. He was the equivalent of a Golden Gloves champion in amateur welterweight and he could run 100m in eleven seconds flat.

Just two years after that I would venture out on my own to discover martial arts to add to my repertoire of running, climbing and boxing skills and, by then, exercise had become the drug of choice for me, forever. While friends think I am incredibly disciplined, drinking little if at all, never having smoked, having been more or less the same weight all my life and always looking for ways to maximize how I use my body, the truth is a lot more pedestrian.

I have the same self-destructive urges, bouts of doubt and uncertainty and occasional moment of insecurity as everyone else. The only difference is that my drug of choice, the means I use to exorcise my demons has always been physical. If I get tired, exhausted, depressed, disheartened, my go-to space is fabricated out of my body’s ability to move and my mind’s willingness to force it to.

Today we know that the brain is subject to the body and vice versa and exercise changes the brain. The role of exercise on the brain is well documented as are the health and medicinal benefits of exercise. So the real question is why do some people not exercise? And here Emily Balcetis whose work I cited in “The Sniper Mind” has some very interesting observations to recount that concern vision and perception.

The benefits of exercise are not just for adults however. Children, too, can find it of direct benefit to their physical and cognitive development. Darebee, the world’s favorite, free, fitness resource has over 1,000 workouts and several role playing games programs that will fitness accessible, fun and sustainable.

At a certain level we are all biological machines, made up of substrates that are subject to normal degradation, ageing and wear and tear. Fitness is not just the means through which we look and feel good but also the tool we employ to stave off the inevitable physical and mental decline that the lifespan of the substrates that make us, what we are, has ordained.

There is good news in all of this. First, you can truly exercise anywhere. Second, it doesn’t have to be at Olympic sports level. Third, the cognitive benefits of exercise start almost immediately and finally the overall, holistic impact of exercise to the body/brain symbiont are now being documented in detail.

There are so many processes going on in our body and brain that maintaining a healthy balance in all of them so we don’t go wacky or get ill is a delicate act in itself. Exercise helps.

Life is, for us all, a journey. Each step is an adventure. Each moment a challenge. The body, truly, cannot live without the mind But the mind, without a body may also not be able to exist.

There are many different questions to ponder here. They range from moments when the mind simply allows the body to do the apparently impossible to instances where the body and mind are inseparably intertwined to the point that we are never quite sure whether we are a brain with a body or a body with a brain.

The fact remains that without a brain our bodies would be unable to reach out for coffee in our weekly shopping, alongside a generous helping of donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday wherever you are.

© 2019 David Amerland. All rights reserved