Pumping Irony

Craig Cox, EL’s managing editor and resident geezer, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

Experience Life Magazine

Sitting to Get Smarter

I’ve never pretended to be the smartest guy in the room, but it’s possible that I won’t get a whole lot dumber if I just keep sitting still for a half hour every morning.

That’s the conclusion of new research out of UCLA measuring the effects of a long-term meditation practice on the brain. The study, published in a recent edition of the journal NeuroImage, suggests that these meditators have stronger connections between brain regions and less evidence of brain atrophy as they age. Those stronger connections mean that you’re more capable of relaying electrical signals from one region of your aging brain to another, allowing even slow thinkers like myself to stay sharp into our twilight years.

“Our results suggest that long-term meditators have white-matter fibers that are either more numerous, more dense or more insulated throughout the brain,” Eileen Luders, one of the lead researchers, explained in a statement released by UCLA. “We also found that the normal age-related decline of white-matter tissue is considerably reduced in active meditation practitioners.”

Plenty of other studies have shown that people who meditate regularly tend to have more gray matter in their brains, but Luders and her colleagues are now suggesting that a long-term meditation practice can, as she puts it, “induce changes on a micro-anatomical level.”

I won’t go into the details here — how researchers used diffusion tensor imaging to show that activity within the corticospinal tract, the superior longitudinal fasciculus, and the uncinate fasciculus differed markedly between the meditators participating in the study and the control group — because, well, that would just be showing off.

Actually, I don’t know my hippocampus from my amygdala, but it’s nice to know that all those mornings I’ve sat on my butt wrestling silently with my monkey mind might actually keep me lucid — if not any brighter — long into my crusty old age.

In Other News…
For those of you keeping score out there, I finally managed to extract the last four concrete-encrusted fence posts from the space in our backyard where we someday hope to create a vegetable garden. One of those posts had been confounding me for almost a year, but I grabbed my sledgehammer the other day and gave it a few good whacks and, much to my surprise and delight, all the concrete fell away. I’d like to say I enjoyed complete vindication, except that I tweaked something in my lower back pulling the dang thing out of the hole. So it goes…. The forecast this coming week calls for temps in the 90s with humidity not far behind, so I’m thinking it’s time to get back into the gym. My Handyman Workouts offer plenty of resistance training (see aching back above and sore elbow in previous post), but not much in the way of cardio. The good news is that my knee feels great, so maybe it’s time to hit the dreadmill again. I’ll report back…