As I make my putt on the 18th green and jump back into the cart to drive to the clubhouse, I marvel to myself Wow, I don’t think I had any tics during that session. Throughout the ride home, I excitedly report to my parents not only how I played, but also about the fact that I didn’t notice any symptoms of my Tourette Syndrome.
Over the last few years, I’ve come to notice something about my tics. Whenever I take part in an activity or hobby such as golf or taekwondo, I completely forget about my tics, and don’t find myself disrupted by any abnormal motor or vocal behaviors. I might be out on the course one day, or even at a taekwondo national competition, and everything around me including my own actions seem to be distracting me from any tics. Am I just too busy to notice my Tourette Syndrome? I know that physical exercise is always good for an individual’s mental health, but my experience really made me ponder if it was especially beneficial for certain neurological conditions. I’ve thought about this relationship between physical activity and Tourette Syndrome severity for a while, and I decided to try to understand it at a deeper level.
I have noticed in my own life that my tics are significantly less severe during sessions of physical activity. Once in a while, I do catch myself doing vocal tics, but it seems to only be for a short period of time. When I used to compete frequently in Taekwondo competitions, my tics were not even close to the severity they are at now. At the same time, small events of physical exertion like a rock climbing birthday party seem to drastically reduce the intensity of my tics.
I think this relationship between activity and tics makes sense in terms of a biological perspective. Tics can worsen when someone is anxious or stressed, but taking part in physical exercises can possibly decrease stress levels. I think it’s safe to say that while scientists may not have discovered the “cure” for tics yet, physical activity can help to improve the mental health conditions of a person. It did for me.
An interesting part of Tourette Syndrome itself is the distinguishability of vocal and motor tics, both of which are seen in people with the neurological condition. Sometimes, the vocal actions can be more severe and disruptive to the person’s daily life than physical actions. Personally, I find that my vocal tics are still present during any physical activity that I do, but my body is busy and distracted from performing any motor tics. This makes me wonder if a similar idea can be applied to vocal tics such as talking to friends or using your mouth in a way that distracts you from making certain noises that disturb your life.
Through my own experiences and research I’ve done in the subject, I definitely learned a lot about this connection between Tourette Syndrome and physical activity. I’m very glad that I can observe that positive relationship with my own tics. I am extremely intrigued to see research in the future about vocal tics and different methods of reducing their severity and intensity.
Blogger and teen living with TS
Aarav Chandra is a high school junior in San Diego. He has been doing neuroscience research with a professor at UCSD for over two years and studies planaria to understand how the nervous systems work and react to different stimuli. He is passionate about spreading awareness of Tourette’s by sharing his own stories. He co-founded two non-profit organizations to teach under-privileged children in California and India. His non-profit corporation, Learning Spaces, works with local San Diego schools to ensure libraries are enriched with books for students to read. He also teaches children in rural India to read and write. He has seven World Championship titles in taekwondo and is now teaching it to younger children.