Saturday, February 4, 2012

Walk to Exercise Your Memory Muscle

Feature Entry: Walk to Exercise Your Memory Muscle

Memory is a muscle? Yep, it’s true; moreover, like all muscles it can be improved by walking. According to neuroscientists at the University of California we can reduce Alzheimer’s risk by 25 percent by increasing physical activity from “low” to “moderate.” Oh, a another name for the memory muscle is .... your brain.

Other scientists agree. According to Art Kramer, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Illinois, "If you do only one thing to keep your brain young, exercise." His findings support the theory that “Higher exercise levels can reduce dementia risk by 30 to 40 percent compared with low activity levels, and physically active people tend to maintain better cognition and memory than inactive people. They also have substantially lower rates of different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.”

Here is how it seems to work. Walking helps your hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in memory formation. As you age, your hippocampus shrinks, leading to memory loss. Walking has been shown to reverse this process.

How much walking is needed for the prescription to work? Eric Larson, M.D., executive director of Group Health Research Institute in Seattle recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate activity. States Larson, "In our research as little as 15 minutes of regular exercise three times per week helped maintain the brain."

To see more tips for maintaining a healthy ageless brain check Beth Howard’s excellent article in the Feb/March 2012 issue of AARP The Magazine.

Money Walker

Today's Weight = 177.0 lbs.

Today's Money Find = $.81

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Free Range Walking

Free Range Walking

Today’s walk involved honoring a promise to one of my friends from the “brotherhood of the street.” I had promised to take him a “ground score.” We want say what, only that it had a $6.00 value, it was legal, and he needed it. Some information in the brotherhood is proprietary.

He sometimes stays with family in an address about two miles from the MoneyWalker’s house. The walk to his house sounded like a good diversion, so off I went without concern for my usual monetary hot spots; finding loose change was not a priority.

After depositing my gift, left subtly on his front porch, I found myself in an urban conclave. Streets were in disrepair and hardly used. Several houses have been vacant since Katrina and untouched. The curbs were littered with trash. In short,there was an apparent disregard for typical city norms.

And then, there they were, a full flock of chickens coming from a large grassy yard and then spread far up curbs along the street. There must have been 30 birds including two or three baby chickens. They were forging along the deserted street looking for bugs and grasshoppers without regard for anything but their next score. What was striking was their obvious level of contentment, and their beauty. Someone had decided to allow the chickens to freely follow their bliss, to go where nature leads. And there was a rooster or two that seemed to be standing guard. You could see them periodically glancing upward, perhaps looking for hawks or owls, or maybe an unleashed dog.

The urban chickens provided a brief epiphany. It reminded me that my highly purposeful walking episodes need not be so scripted; that a specific narrative need not be followed. On this walk, much like the free range chickens, I had been free to go where nature lead, to follow my bliss. It felt good. I could see now that my walks had become too predicable, that my walking narrative had become too narrow; that I was becoming bored.

So, I am adding "free range walking" to my motivation portfolio. Join me.


Current weight = 175.2 lbs

Money found on current walk = $.82 grubs

Thursday, January 26, 2012

An App for Those That Need External Motivation

Feature Entry: An App for Those That Need External Motivation

Here is what Carolyn See of the Washington Post said about law officer Sunderson: “He is still sick-in-love with Diane, who’s married again, and he’s a compendium of bad habits, but he walks every day and somehow keeps his life in balance.” It seems that many of us are a ‘compendium of bad habits.’

Another bad habit is related to exercise and the store front fitness centers in your neighborhood. January is their busiest time of the year for these usually worthy entrepreneurs. We gain weight, we repent, and then we join a fitness center. The centers charge a non-refundable minimum membership fee and a length-of-time contract, three months minimum due at signing. Joining is not the bad habit, regular attendance is. Too many people join, attend a time or two and then lose interest or motivation to continue. Then at the end of the year, we purchase new clothes, one or two sizes larger than the year before.

Want to change the cycle? Harvard behavioral economists may have the answer. Professor Sendhil Mullainathan teaches that people are more motivated by “immediate consequences than by future possibilities.” Two of his students moved from theory to practice and created a rapidly growing company based on an app that works off of their customers iSO phone (think iphone, ipad, ipod, and others). The company??? Gym Pact!

Gym Pact works with local fitness centers. When you sign up, you make a commitment to exercise a certain amount of time. If you skip your workout, you get fined $5 a day. The money goes into a user’s pool and at the end of the week, surplus dollars are given to the people that honored their pact. When the exercisers checks in to their fitness center using their iSO phone, Gym Pact confirms your presence via the GPS. The money is handled through credit cards and PayPal. In their beta test, 90% met their pact requirements.

It is that simple: “When you sign up, you make a commitment to exercise a certain amount of time.” There are four simple steps: 1) join, 2) set your pact, 3) check in at your gym, and 4) get rewarded.

Somewhere, in some dimension, B.F. Skinner has a big smile on his face. Go ahead, check out the Gym Pact url listed above.


Photo by Richmond College Fitness Center

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Refrigeration Door Wisdom for Weight Loss

Feature Entry: Refrigeration Door Wisdom for Weight Loss

A nice lady well known to the MoneyWalkers has an interesting habit of creating and posting great advice on her refrigeration door; we will call her “G”. On a recent visit, we noticed this gem posted as if her teen daughters had provided a reminder note for her benefit. It read as follows:
Mom, remember…
• No sugar or alcohol on weekdays.
• Eat only fresh vegetables for smacks
• Select smaller portions during the regular meals
• Eat only whole grains

These are great pithy reminders and easy to remember. G is not forsaking sweets and a fine glass of wine; instead she is using these treats as rewards for healthy vigilance. She is not eliminated snacking. In fact she implies that snacks are important component of strategies for losing or maintaining weight loss. Eating snacks reduces hunger cues which often lead to eating sweet or over processed treats. The Moneywalker really enjoys raw carrots.

It takes discipline but G has learned to take smaller portions of her delicious entrees, and then eats more slowly so as to send a “filling” message to her appetite sensors. She doesn’t forgo breads and pastas but is careful to eat more digestible and less fattening whole grain varieties.

G is an exerciser, but as a busy mom, she knows that completing time consuming calorie burning exercise often is set aside so as to meet her obligations as a busy house of pre-teens and teens. She is correct; calorie management is a more efficient weight loss/maintenance tool than is aerobic exercise, although both are importance.

Want my pithy addition? What she said!


Weight Scale Data: 177.0 lbs
Money Found today: $1.47 with several “sweet” finds; very motivating

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Altruistic Walking

Altruistic Walking

The MoneyWalker is intrinsically motivated to sustain his walking habit because he has internalized and accepts the scientifically demonstrated values of walking e.g. weight management, emotional energy, avoidance of premature memory loss, cut the risk of heart disease, and reduce the chance of type 2 diabetes. There are more. However, walking is not necessarily a strong ally of intrinsic motivation. The steady routine can lead to boredom and walkers’ burn-out. One cure for walkers’ burn-out is altruistic walking, a fence straddler it turns out on the motivation internal/external continuum.

How so external motivation as a tenant of altruistic behavior? The research of Alberto Oliverio, a genetic and molecular biologist, leads him to believe that one of the important motives of altruism and moral judgments is grounded on the principle of reciprocity. In other words, we expect to be treated as we take care of other people. Neuroscientists including “evolutionary psychologists” are now able to probe deep into the brain lobes and learn much about behavior, much of it traced to evolutionary sources. Interestingly, the area of the brain that fires neurons during selfless behavior is the same area that fires during selfish behavior and with the same intensity and duration. For the ancients, success in the survival game might have been just as dependent on being a helper as being helped.

As a near daily walker, opportunities for altruism abound. For example, during a Christmas morning walk, the MoneyWalker found a Louisiana drivers license. It belonged to a Mario with an Hispanic surname and included his address. My first thought ran to selfishness; not my culture, dump the card. Then selfless behavior kicked in and I sought to find his telephone number from the address. No success. I then remembered that an Hispanic work crew had been renovating a building behind the curb where the license was found. Later, finding the crew at work, I stepped into the building and was greeted with coolness by one of the workers (not his culture group). Not deterred, “Do you know someone named Mario?” as I showed him the license. He exclaimed in a loud voice to one of his co-workers, the one that seemed to be the boss, “Mario, come here, look at this (In English obviously for my benefit.)” One look told me the license belonged to Mario. “Thank you, Thank you”, he repeated over and over; “You have made my Christmas!” And his joy helped make mine.

Now will someone help me find my cell phone, it must be out there somewhere!

Happy New Year everyone.

Remember the big four resolutions for weight lost: Weigh every day and journal the results; eat a healthy breakfast; walk 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day; and practice portion control.

The MoneyWalker

Recent money success: Found a $20 dollar bill during last Sunday’s walk. It, like all found money goes into the charity bag.

Recent weight gain/loss: Up two pounds from the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s holidays. In the words of Governor Perry—Opps!