Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notes: A long-delayed trip to summer camp

I went to brain camp last week. Oldest grandson Ike was at his first week-long, away-from-home Boy Scouts Camp, so I figured in solidarity I should do one, too. I think he had more fun.

I didn’t go to camp as a kid. My parents waited until I was a teenager and then shipped me off to shovel coal at the Cog Railway for four years. I know I had more fun there.

Truthfully, it was the lady of the little house who spotted the church bulletin announcement about this two-day “Senior camp” at St. Anselm College. It promised senior activity suggestions, information on the benefits of lifetime exercise programs, and even spirituality. Let’s go, she said.

I don’t recall the announcement mentioning anything about the blood drawings or the memory tests or the fact that this was the first such senior camp put on by this professor and his aides, or that they would be figuring things out on the fly. But I may have forgotten.

Diet wasn’t on the agenda, either, but it became a topic when one lady said she was on the “keto” diet, and another camper heard “keno” and wondered what that diet consisted of.

I was tempted to say burgers and fries at Billy’s Sports Bar, but I kept quiet.

It turns out that one objective of the camp was to gather research on the benefits of short-term, moderate exercise on brain function and memory.

There is already quite a bit of research pointing to the positive cognitive effects of long-term exercise. A book on the subject was repeatedly cited at camp.

“Spark” by Harvard researcher and professor John Ratey is all about exercise and the brain and how much better the brain functions just by regularly elevating one’s heart rate and breaking a sweat. (You should also get a dog or a house plant, but I can’t remember why.)

They should have tested me when I was shoveling all that coal. By camp time, my brain had long since returned to its natural state of mush.

I know this because the memory tests they gave us repeatedly at camp included sets of 15 words being read to us, after which we were to write down as many as we could remember. This didn’t end well for me, either before or after our monitored and moderate walking exercise around the beautiful St. Anselm campus.

The few words I did manage to recall and write down included a couple that, as I think back on it, may not have actually been on the list. They might have been a psychosomatic reaction to waiting and waiting to get jabbed with a needle, three different times.

Or maybe it was because I was hoping a snowstorm would cancel the second day of summer camp or at least provide for early release. No such luck.

I will tell you this: I am not donating my body to science, unless it’s deductible.

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