Sunday, March 18, 2007

The myth of the nerd

Thanks to Cynthia for sending me this fascinating, albeit deeply troubling article in Newsweek about how exercise makes you smarter.
Deeply troubling because 1. that means that we're going to have start hitting the gym like there's no tomorrow and that is a prospect that needs some getting used to. 2. What about the myth of the brainerd that is constitutionally incapable of anything resembling physical activity? How come they're so smart? And how come some athletes are so dumb? The article doesn't really explain.
I will confess that since I freelance, I hit the gym two or three times a week and I have the luxury of staying for about an hour and a half, for which I feel like a virtual Conan the Barbarian (without the biceps, yet).
Once I'm there, I enjoy it, sort of. Exercise definitely lifts up my mood and makes me want to whistle, sing or horny (sorry, folks, scientific fact). But "once I'm there" is the operative phrase. It's the dialectical argument I have with myself every morning between staying in bed or going to the freaking gym that exhausts me even before I put on my sports bra. Still, I go dutifully because that way I can continue eating like a pig and keeping my weight more or less under control (less and less) and 2, because I want to have biceps like Madonna and 3, because it's supposed to be very good for you.
And I'm afraid it is, empirically: I'm less tired during the day, I sleep much better at night and my mood is much improved. So why is it such a drag to go to the gym?
I used to have a fantasy that the US Surgeon General saw the light one day and announced that they were wrong, that smoking is really good for you, that it erases cellulite, is an aphrodisiac, it makes you lose weight and helps you retain your memory, and will make you rich and famous, etc. I have sort of the same fantasy with exercise. One day they'll wake up and announce that it's really bad for you, and the best you can do is lounge around in your pajamas and either read or watch movies. Same with ice cream, mac and cheese, nutella, bacon, and desserts. Until that happens, I guess it's not quite safe to take up smoking or completely abandon exercise just yet. Our day will come. Just don't hold your breath.
Well, it turns out that aerobic exercise in adults actually generates new neurons in the frontal lobe, which is the lobe for memory. I'm not a scientist. Read the article, which is why I link it here.
And then start running.

This week I had time to come home from a freelance gig, and veg out and watch TV. I was curious about some of the programs people talk about, since I never watch them. My experience and my verdict are the following:
No wonder this is a dumbass country. TV will literally make you stupid. You sit Albert Einstein in front of an hour of sitcoms and he will emerge a moron. It's not only that most of the programs are inane and utterly devoid of any connection to human reality, but that there is something inherent to the watching that lobotomizes you. I emerged from an hour of TV in a stupid daze.

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