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I think swimming was one of the most important coping mechanisms I had in high school. Breath by breath, lap by lap, my mind quieted for long stretches. Long runs helped me later in life, just me and the road and my breathing.
Exercise is essential in general for brain health, based on just about every bit of research out there.
It’s tough, with three kids with busy schedules, to fit in the luxury of a long run these days, but I try not be hard on myself, and get it what I can get in. Which varies week to week, and season to season. But I find myself healthiest when I’m able to get to yoga a couple times a week, and the swimming pool remains an important aspect of my health. I try to get in a couple workouts a week with a local masters swimming program.
I also try to combine walking with meditation. The idea is to be aware of every step. Silently say fire when you lift your foot, wind as the foot moves forward, water as the foot drops, and earth when your foot touches the ground. Spiritually, it provides a sense of the cycle and connectivity of all things. Mentally, it focuses your mind in the now. While I’m not sure if it has the same cardiovascular benefits as running, I’ll also sometimes do breathing exercises while I walk (doing four count breathing, for example – breath in on four, hold for four, breath out on four, hold for four) to get my pulse rate up.
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