Mens Sana in Corpore Sano:
Part Two of a three-part series on helping creativity flow
I’m sure I heard the phrase “Mens Sana in Corpore Sano” long before I had any notion what it meant. Then I started reading the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. Amelia is fond of using that phrase, from the poem by Juvenal whenever extolling the value of exercise.
I would like to say that after reading the first Amelia book, I started exercising. I cannot say it with a straight face. I’ve only paid attention to fitness and nutrition sporadically. However, around 2005 my doctor diagnosed me as prediabetic. Since I was already having trouble with my blood pressure, and sometimes with cholesterol and triglyceride levels, it was clear something had to change. When you have this combination, doctors may also refer to your condition as metabolic syndrome, and warn you you’re at risk for all kinds of horrible health issues.
Honestly, I wasn’t as afraid of having a stroke or heart attack as I was about becoming demented. There’s a lot of dementia on my father’s side of the family. We all figured it was Alzheimer’s Disease, but after my dad was thoroughly evaluated, it turned out that his dementia was most likely due to metabolic causes – the combination of diabetes, high BMI, high blood pressure, and unsatisfactory cholesterol and triglyceride numbers. Having seen more than enough dementia in the family, I had a come-to-Jesus moment and determined that I’d get my BMI into the normal range.
Maintaining a healthy weight continues to be a struggle, but I’ve managed to keep about ninety pounds of the excess off for a couple of years now. I still have blood pressure issues, but my glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride numbers are good.
I also still have food issues. However – and this is something you don’t think about too much when you’re lying around on the couch in front of the TV with an enormous ice cream sundae – exercise can actually be fun. It can be an adventure, the way it is when:
Day to day, I just exercise enough to make sure I’m ready for the good stuff. A hike is a lot more fun if you’ve got the wind and the strength for it, so I do something cardiovascular three to five days a week (maybe six when the weather is good), and do strength training two to three days a week. I could stand to do some more mind-body work, like yoga, tai chi or meditation, but I fit that in sometimes.
So that’s the second leg on my stool of creativity – taking care of my body. There’s all kinds of evidence that your mind functions better if your body is in good shape. Well… I’m still pretty flaky. However, regular exercise has given me more energy to do all kinds of things, and that includes writing.