Besides soccer and t-ball as a young child and a couple years of rollerhockey, I have never trained for, competed in, or certainly excelled at any athletic pursuit.  I belong to the first generation of what are now millions of kids and young adults who choose the immersive, interactive world of video games over athletics.  As a result of genetics—specifically my hyperactive imagination and my need to shut off the world—I have always loved gaming, from saving self-programmed games on audio cassettes for my TI-99/4A to entering hex-code cheats in ProDOS on my Apple //c to playing Company of Heroes on the souped-up Dell XPS with which I’m typing this post.

But it was my genetics, including that hyperactive imagination and my need to escape, that created a short bout of anxiety back in March which drove me to embrace exercise.  Although I credit gaming for a great deal of the mindset that has helped me become a successful consultant, it doesn’t deliver near the endorphins that aerobic activity does, and it certainly doesn’t help me burn off my nervous energy.  So even though I still plan on playing video games now and again, I’ve not played since March and swimming, biking, and running have largely become my new “hobby.”

That brings me to the good news.  It seems that triathlon has another advantage over gaming when it comes to my genetics.  High cholesterol runs in my family, and back in March when I got my blood tested mine was no exception. My cholesterol level was 181, which although not the worst it’s ever been, still put me at risk for all sorts of nasty health conditions.  Fast forward to mid-September when I had a follow-up blood draw, and I learned that my cholesterol dropped 45 points in just six months!  Moreover, my unhealthy (i.e. LDL) cholesterol dropped by 50 points, reducing my cholesterol-related health risk (i.e. LDL/HDL risk ratio) by over 40%.  Note that besides cutting out white bread, flour pasta, and sugar drinks, I changed almost nothing about my diet.  I only increased my aerobic exercise time from 0 hours per week to 6-8 hours per week.

With less than a year of training under my belt I’m still an exercise newbie, so we’ll see how long I actually keep up this new hobby.   But results like that one get me even more fired up to make life changes that do good for both my brain and body.