The brightly colored balls floated through the air with grace as the juggler tossed three balls, never missing a beat. Jugglers have amazed crowds with their excellent eye and hand coordination for thousands of years.
Wandering jugglers were common during the Middle Ages. Jugglers were hired to perform at the first modern circus that opened in 1768. Their popularity continued through the 1800s as jugglers performed between acts and during scenery changes at music and variety theaters.
What was once an entertaining act of skill is now recognized as a brain and aerobic exercise. Researchers in several studies have shown that learning to juggle showed a transient increase in the grey matter in the brain. Grey matter, a major component of the central nervous system, sends information to the brain for processing. Twenty percent of the oxygen taken in by the body goes to the brain. A whopping 95% of that oxygen goes into grey matter. Obviously, the human body considers grey matter of prime importance.
As people age, grey matter declines and is believed to be responsible for short-term memory loss. A simple way to boost grey matter as well as increase oxygen intake is the aerobic exercise of juggling.
Tom and I decided to try our hand at this time-honored entertainment. We started with the two-ball cascade, a basic juggling pattern. After only a short period of practice, Tom could toss and catch the two balls. My learning curve was a little longer and involved spending precious practice time picking the balls up off the floor. Our dogs were disappointed when the cascade was a success since they enjoyed chasing the balls around the room.
If mobility is a problem, consider using juggling scarves. Scarves are light, easy to throw and will slowly drift down, making them easy to catch. The scarves are sheer nylon, a 16” square, in three different colors. You can purchase them online or cut your own out of nylon. Visit youtube.com for a variety of how-to juggle videos.
We cannot prove our practice sessions have dramatically increased the grey matter in our brains but juggling has definitely increased the fun in our exercise routine.