Planting the Seed of a New Neural Pathway
You are not inclined to want to exercise. Running has never been your thing. Going to a gym is expensive and your level of fitness or body shape would be embarrassing. You know you are not feeling as good as you have in the past. You don’t bounce out of bed as enthusiastically as you did. You are experiencing more aches and pains than ever before. You’ve grown love handles, and you find yourself running out of breath walking up a slight incline. You say to yourself, ‘one day I’m going to do something about this’, but that day remains illusive.
You are visiting a friend who has a copy of Dr Mike Moreno’s book The 17 Day Plan to Stop Aging sitting on the kitchen bench. You pick it up and flick through it, and read the following excerpt.
“The idea was so intriguing to researches at the Mayo Clinic that they did a study to prove that it works, and they gave it a name: NEAT, which stands for nonexercise activity thermogenesis. NEAT refers to all the things you do when you aren’t purposefully exercising: pacing while on the phone, walking somewhere instead of hopping in the car, climbing stairs, cleaning the house…and the list goes on.”
Moreno went on to write, “Right now, today, I’d like you to start finding all kinds of ways to move – from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed. Pace around the bathroom while you brush your teeth (what else could you possibly have to do then?), park father away from the entrance to the grocery store so you have to walk and carry your bags, go on a stroll during your lunch break, stand up to fold the laundry (and maybe do some squats while you fold!)-there are endless ways to move more, folks. You don’t even have to be that creative to come up with them.”
You stand there for a few moments and daydream about the sort of NEAT things you could do. Instead of driving to work you could walk the one or two kilometres to the bus stop and catch the bus to work, as well returning home on the bus. You could do the window cleaning at home instead of getting someone to come in and do it. Lunch could include 15 minute walks at either end. You could signup for the dance classes that you have wanted to do for years, but never got around to doing. Your friend calls your name, interrupting your daydream. You put the book down and forget about NEAT.
A couple of days pass and you hop in the car to drive to work. As you pull out of the drive you see a bus and immediately you’re reminded about Dr Moreno’s words about NEAT. Your thoughts entertain the idea of catching the bus for a moment, but there is a break in the traffic and you pull out, forgetting all about it. Later that day you return home, and to your delight you see that the gardener has been and the yard looks fantastic. You park the car, and as you have done for years, you go to the letter box to retrieve the bill left by the gardener. As you look a the bill and then your yard, the thought pops into your head that this could be one of the those NEAT activities, if you were to do the yard. You laugh the idea off and go inside for your routine after-work beer.
As the weeks go by, the newly gained awareness of NEAT activities and their benefits keep popping into your thoughts. In fact, you find yourself regularly being mindful of the choices between your old patterns of doing things, which have resulted in your evident ‘aging’, and the NEAT behaviours that might well result in much improved health and wellbeing. You even begin discussing these alternative activities with your partner, who encourages you to seriously consider doing some of them.
It’s been months since you read that small excerpt from Dr Moreno’s book. It’s a beautiful spring morning and the thought enters your mind that today you could catch the bus. You then realise that you have no idea what the bus timetable is. You opt to drive to work, and decide to research the bus timetable for going to and from work. You return home at the end of the day with not only the information, but also a brand spanking new transit card topped up with forty dollars.
Now aware of the time needed to be ready to catch the bus you leave home on time and make it to the bus stop with time to spare. You are pretty proud of yourself, you have just walked for half an hour to catch your bus. You enjoy the buzzy feeling of your body as you sense the blood more actively circulating around your body. Now on the bus, you sit, taking in this new experience of being driven into town. Unlike the people sitting in the cars below you, who are having to deal with congested traffic, you can relax and enjoy the ride. Your first NEAT activity happened without any discipline or willpower needed to begin. It was as if just becoming more aware made it easy to do.
This awareness and mindfulness thing is the beginning of a whole new approach to living your life. Of course, lunch becomes a walk in the park (literally), and the gardening? Let’s wait and see. To be continued…
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