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The benefits of: Juggling

By Dean Irvine for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Juggling may seem faintly ludicrous, but don't underestimate this gravity-defying pursuit as a way to help take your mind off the stresses of the daily grind.

It will help to improve hand-eye co-ordination and according to a university study may also boost your brain power.

Getting started is easy. First of all clear your mind of juggling's association with clowns and those annoying people at festivals who wear those oh-so-wacky hats.

If you're associating yourself with people who fancy themselves as modern-day jesters you're never going to be able to attain a state where both your mind and body are relaxed.

Juggling improves your rhythm and timing. Absolute beginners should start with just one ball, throwing it from one hand to the other in an arc; the highest point should be about level with your chin.

Once this is mastered, add a second ball and throw it once the first ball is at the top of the arc. When this feels comfortable you can add a third ball and begin juggling the traditional three-ball cascade.

Because learning juggling involves literally concentrating on the matter in hand, it can be a great way to take your mind off other things -- it's a state known as "relaxed concentration" and commonly found to be the state sports people have to be in to attain their best results.

You might also get a bit of a work out from it by picking up all those balls that go thudding to the ground. Just remember to bend with your knees.

Aside from the physical exertions and relaxation techniques, a 2004 report from the University of Regensberg in Germany found that learning to juggle causes certain areas of your brain to grow.

The researchers discovered that the absolute beginners who learnt to juggle over a period of three months had increased their gray matter in areas associated with visual motion functions.

But it's also a case of use it or lose it. The experiment's human guinea pigs' brains returned to their original size when they stopped juggling. 'The brain is like a muscle, we need to exercise it," said Dr Arne May who led the research team.

Another positive effect could be picking up some extra revenue. Learning new tricks or moving on to juggle with clubs can look quite impressive, so practicing your skills in a park could win you the adoration of passers-by, and who knows, if you're not wearing a wacky hat, maybe some spare change.

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Smarter than the average festival go-er. Juggling can make your brain bigger.

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