Tag Archives: Mental Health

BMX Racing and Your Brain

BMX race against grandpa

My son and my dad trash talking at the Y BMX track in Orange, CA.

By: Tina Davidson

Hold Your Line

I thought my dad was taking life a little easier since his retirement, but it seems I was wrong.

He stopped subjecting his body to the wear and tear of motocross racing many decades ago.  He promised that his days of concussions and broken collar bones were over.

Or so he said.

Recently, he’s traded in his motorcycle throttle for bike pedals.

He claims he is only practicing, but he has had a few minor injuries.  He showed me a scab on his elbow and remarked, “It’s healing nicely.”  He received the flesh wound after a five-year-old had cut him off at the finish line at the Y BMX track in Orange, CA, during a practice run.

So, when my seven-year-old son rode the Y BMX track with his grandpa for the first time this last week, my dad advised, “Hold your line.” This means when you are a newbie racer you ride in a straight line– you don’t veer off to the right or left.  Not heeding this advice may cause you to get hit by someone else, like a hot-shot five-year-old, or you may take out another rider, like a grandpa.  My son crashed once and no grandpas were injured during the two hours of practice racing, so I think the advice sunk in.

Pros vs. Cons of BMX Racing

The top three benefits to BMX:

  1. A fairly inexpensive hobby
  2. A good form of outdoor exercise
  3. A sport suitable for all ages

The top three things I dislike from my son’s recent BMX experience:

  1. Kids comparing their bikes
  2. Kids trash talking each other in practice
  3. Kids getting injured

Protect Your Brain

Thankfully, my son was wearing a helmet (a track requirement) when he crashed.  Are you familiar with what to look for in the event of a head injury following a crash? The Medicine of Cycling has a great handout on how to assess for a concussion.  It gives clear and simple instructions on how to proceed after a head injury from a cycling crash.

In researching information on traumatic brain injuries, I stumbled upon an article in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing.  It included information on providing traumatic brain injury patients with psychosocial interventions (among other important interventions).

To promote brain health throughout the life span, the injured person and family should be instructed on the health benefits of social support and community engagement as methods to promote brain neuroplasticity and positive behavioral outcomes. Although the mechanisms remain elusive concerning how social behaviors contribute to neuroplasticity, there is a growing body of evidence that social service programs, meditation, and physical exercise improve brain plasticity (Davidson & McEwen, 2012). The family and injured person should be informed of the benefits of community engagement, friendships, and social relationships as well as, reducing stress through cognitive reframing or meditation practices. Furthermore, these psychosocial interventions can prevent or reduce the negative effects of emotional distress and depression, which are both known to contribute to the inhibition of neural activity.

It seems that whether you have a brain injury or not, everyone can benefit from socializing and getting exercise.  I’m glad my dad has found a hobby that can help support his brain health.  In the long run, he is doing his body and brain a big favor by trying BMX.  Plus, he gets the added benefit of riding with his grandchildren.

My dad has always enjoyed the thrill of racing and I think my oldest son has inherited that gene. Thanks, Dad!

Lift Weights to Ride Better

A brief article, meant for long distance riders, in Bicycling, suggests leg presses and squats to improve your riding muscles. (I’m sure BMX racers can benefit from strengthening their quadriceps and muscles in their lower bodies too.) A weight lifting routine over 8 to 12 weeks (during off-season it was recommended) will aid your brain as well.

“Your brain also becomes more adept at recruiting the muscles you need to keep riding.”

Try three sets of five Dumbbell Bulgarian Squats two days a week. There are many Youtube videos out there to show you how.

Try Something New

Are you contemplating a trial ride around a BMX track? Remember, you are never too old to try something new (consult your doctor first if you have reservations). It is best to be cautious, but don’t let fear of injury stop you from trying.  Perhaps, we will see you out on the track!


Happy Father’s Day, Dad!



Bay, Esther H., and Kattlynn S. Chartier. “Chronic morbidities after traumatic brain injury: an update for the advanced practice nurse.” Journal of Neuroscience Nursing June 2014: 142+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 June 2014.

“ACTIVATE YOUR MUSCLES.” Bicycling Mar. 2014: 024. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 June 2014.



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Super Microbes and Our Bionic Gut Flora

Superstar Microbes       I never knew gut bacteria could be so valiant in defending off germs!

Recently, I watched the online video, animated by Benjamin Arthur for NPR, about gut bacteria.  My favorite scene showed the “good” microbe spewing out its own antibiotics as it took on the “evil” microbes. Who knew microbes made their own antibiotics? Check out NPR.org and learn all about the human microbiome.  Along with the video, there is an article worth checking out, “Gut Bacteria Might Guide The Workings Of Our Minds,” by Rob Stein written on November 18, 2013.  Science is in the early stages of researching how our gut bacteria may help solve neurological problems.

Here’s a couple other articles on probiotics and brain health to check out:

  • From the excerpts I’ve read of Julie Matthews’ Nourishing Hope book and blog, she seems to be a big proponent of probiotics  and that it can benefit those with ADHD, autism, and other neurological conditions. Her July 16, 2013 post, “Probiotics Affect Brain Function: Research Study” is an interesting read.

If I had a lot of time, I’d love to read all articles published by Glenn R. Gibson, a leading expert on prebiotics.  Prebiotics are the food our microbes eat.

The geek in me would like a copy of Handbook of Prebiotics, edited by Glenn R. Gibson and Marcel Roberfroid, for Christmas, but I’d also settle for some dark chocolate and wine (since they are considered prebiotic, of course!).

Here’s to feeding those microbes and keeping your brain happy and healthy!


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Inspiration for Your Brain

I had to watch the YouTube video of Stephen Jepson’s story more than once.  He’s in his early 70s and has a great zeal for life.  The video shows him hopping across rocks barefoot, walking a slack rope, riding his elliptical bike, climbing a vertical ladder supported by guide wires, and throwing knives.

Stephen Jepson is a learning theorist, inventor, athlete, artist, and a kid at heart who has turned his property into a playground. His key to a long and healthy life is play.

He says in the video, “My memory has become absolutely intense since beginning to do all these things” and he never falls.  During his playground activities, he alternates between his dominant and non-dominant hand and foot.  All of the activities shown, like playing jacks, stick flipping, and juggling on a Bongo board, are helping him build neural pathways, grow new brain cells, develop balance and coordination, and are key to preventing Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s.  One of his main goals is to prevent bone breaking falls in himself and others.

Although he never mentions the systems by name, it seems he is highly in tune with his brain’s proprioceptive and vestibular systems. Interestingly enough,  I found a good blurb about these systems on the Orange County Learning Disabilities Association’s website.  Here’s the link for the quote below:  http://www.oclda.org/sensory.html

When the neurobiology dysfunctions, it causes distortions in the sensory system of the body. Without proper neurobiological support, the ability to touch, see, and hear can be distorted. When vestibular and proprioceptive systems are inadequate, such perceptions as the ability to know where one is in space, to have a sense of time, and even to have a sense of humor can be distorted in such a way that the individual has difficulty perceiving the world correctly. Visual, auditory, and tactile responses must be able to perceive, interpret and process information so that a child can learn about the world around him/her. Without good sensory integration, learning and behavior is more difficult and the individual often feels uncomfortable about himself, and cannot easily cope with ordinary demands and stress.1

Basically, if we don’t have adequate vestibular and proprioceptive systems, we are more likely to fall since we can’t perceive where we are in space (which also hinders learning and other things).  I guess kids and adults can all use a little more play.  Many of the playground items Stephen uses, like the hurdles made from PVC pipe, you can make yourself and set up in your backyard.

Stephen reminds us that it is never too late to learn– hence, the science of neuroplasticity.

He encourages others to,”Be bold in your life choices, it is just going to make your life richer.” His message, “Never leave the playground.”

What ways are you going to play today?

Thanks to Growing Bolder broadcasting for sharing Stephen’s story!

Check out the video and be inspired!  http://youtu.be/aUf72dLf22c

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November 3, 2013 · 10:16 pm

Fine-Tuning of Brain Function and Autism

Perhaps you have a friend or family member on the autism spectrum?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, about 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

Dr. Martha Herbert, pediatric neurologist and neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, wrote an article about autism that was published online for the Orange County Register on October 18, 2013.  She wrote: “Some autism self-advocates don’t think autism is a “disorder” at all – they describe themselves as having a “condition” that is simply a different way of being human.”

Her article, “Autism challenges us to ‘think different,'” did indeed challenge me to think differently about the subject.

Here’s an excerpt from her article regarding the brain and autism that has implications for us all:

“The areas where people on the autism spectrum have the hardest time are the functions requiring the most exquisite fine-tuning of brain function. The brain requires loads of energy to fire its signals, and to coordinate them. When the brain and body are worn down by too much stress and exposures from the environment, its cells are going to have a hard time generating that energy. The most complex functions will be harder to perform. They may even be put on hold, to protect the rest of the system.

A brain with low energy is going to be challenged when the demand gets high – so finding the right words or tone, figuring out what facial expressions mean, integrating vision with sound and smell, being coordinated, paying attention or even being flexible – all of these will be hard – often too hard.

From this perspective you can see why there would be a spectrum in autism – it’s because there are a million ways of getting overloaded and running out of energy. Each person has their own unique combination of genetic weak spots and exposures that pile on top of this. Each person has their own total load recipe.” Check out the whole article here: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/spectrum-531927-autism-many.html

There is a lot to learn. I am intrigued to check out her book, The Autism Revolution: Whole Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be.

Anyone read it?

I hope that you are taking care of your brain so that it is not overloaded.

One thing you can do to keep your  brain happy and healthy is to exercise.  Try just a casual walk with a friend to reduce your stress. Your brain will be happy you did!


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