By Debbie Moore

Killeen Daily Herald

Brains need a break.

Some scientists believe people who use cell phones, listen to iPod music, watch flat-screen TVs and/or send e-mails on their iPhones while they're exercising at gyms might be depriving their brains of needed downtime.

As Max Richtel writes in the Aug. 25 New York Times, "The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas."

Those scientists might have a point. Before saying why I think so, let me first point out that I'm a huge fan of exercising at gyms. I do so four times a week.

I also know how hard it can be to climb onto a treadmill and walk or run in the same place for X number of minutes. And I know how boring riding a stationary bike or using an elliptical can be.

A little diversion from, say a flat-screen TV, might make the difference between a person choosing to get 30 minutes of healthy cardiovascular activity or staying away from the gym.

But those scientists are right about giving brains some downtime. When I first started working out last March at a gym, I came up with some ideas for Healthy Living columns, and I would write parts of them in my mind as I exercised.

Or I made some weekend plans or analyzed some problem I had at work.

Gradually, however, I began looking upward more and more to watch "SportsCenter" on the large-screen, overhead TVs in the gym.

I got caught up on the latest sports news, but my brain no longer focused on writing or on much of anything outside of the baseball playoff picture or the NFL's preseason progression.

I decided to compromise. Now when I climb on a treadmill at the gym, I watch the flat-screen TVs for a few minutes to help get me going. Then, I mainly focus on something in front of me (except for occasional glances at "SportsCenter") and let my mind wander.

True, most of my thoughts are junk (I wonder, for example, if my baseball team is doomed to never again win a World Series title), but every now and then, a worthwhile idea pops into my head and I'm rewarded for giving my brain a break from technology.

Contact Debbie Moore at or (254) 501-7545.

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