Be Dutch and “Speel!”
Recently I discussed with a friend how unpredictable weather doesn’t bother me, and she wondered why.
For five years (1996-2001), we lived as expatriates in The Netherlands and Belgium. Our daughter Meredith was eight months old when we moved, and our son Jack (Gijs) was born in Amsterdam.
You might not know this, but it rains A LOT in Holland, and the weather is super inconsistent.
You can live through four seasons in one day!
So, you get good at learning not to worry about the weather.
Those years with my kids and husband were fundamental to our family for the great friendships we made and the extensive travelling we did, especially rediscovering play and adventure.
Quite frankly, the Dutch don’t live to work; they work to live and “Speel” (play).
Despite the rain, there are terrific ways to keep active—the Dutch build super creative indoor and outdoor playgrounds.
We also quickly adopted their best lifestyle habit – cycling.
From young to old, almost everyone owns a bike and uses it as their primary transportation source. You can land at the airport and bike on designated lanes anywhere across the country.
They are super coordinated on their bikes, too. I once saw a cyclist carrying their groceries, his dog, and a cello!
Biking is fun, good for the environment and most importantly, great for your health.
The popularity of cycling worldwide has taken a sharp positive turn lately with the pandemic. Rather than using public transportation and risk not being able to socially distance, people have turned to use bikes in record numbers.
The CBC reported earlier this year that “from the very beginning of the pandemic, public health authorities have been giving biking the thumbs up. Passing another cyclist, jogger or pedestrian on a pathway is deemed a low risk for transmission of COVID-19.”*
Of course, a bonus is that cycling has many positive health benefits, including that it’s easy on the joints, builds muscle, helps with everyday activities, strengthens bones, and is an aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise.**
Why does all of that matter?
Because cardiovascular and functional movement affects certain parts of the brain – like medicine for the mind.
When you’re moving more, your blood starts pumping, triggering growth in the hippocampus, the core area where emotions, learning, and memory storage take place.
I talk a lot about this in my book (The Play Book: How To Get In The Habit Of Good Health) and with the clients I coach.
Heart-pumping cardio helps protect your brain from the effects of ageing.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Neurology reveals that “women who were physically fit in middle age were roughly 88% less likely to develop dementia (defined as a decline in memory severe enough to interfere with daily life) than their peers who were only moderately fit.”***
When we play (exercise), the brain turns on its magic brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which helps new neurons develop and shape new networks.
While much of your ageing process is genetic and factors in your unique DNA, moving a little more, cycling and playing, certainly can improve your mind and sharpen your memory.
Don’t you want to enjoy life and look at ageing as something you don’t have to do but rather something you get to do?
Maybe the best thing about biking, or any activity for that matter, is that the quality of your ageing process and your ability to prevent lifestyle-related diseases becomes more in your control than you think.
So, even though you can’t control the weather, you can control how much you play.
Coach Jan xo
P.S. Whenever you’re ready, here are three ways I can help you:
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*** Omstead, Janet. The Play Book: How To Get In The Habit Of Good Health. Toronto 2019, pp. 97