Physical Exercise is Good for the Brain at Any Age

My company has changed names to Movement Academy from Learn To Move Academy.  A big part of that change is to share the ongoing scientific developments about physical exercise being important to cognitive functioning at various stages of life from young to old.  The brain is susceptible to development, and in this case development just means any change, in the adolescent stage and old age stage.  Obviously youth is in a progressive development and old age in a regressive development.  From a physical standpoint, both age ranges are also similar in balance and stability issues, so the mental similarities make sense.

Physical exercise has been found to have a positive effect on executive functions in both adolescent and aging adults (Barenberg et al., 2011; Best, 2010).  What kind of physical exercise is important?  Studies vary on whether coordination, balance, resistance, or stretching/toning.  All of them play an important role and need to be included as part of any exercise program.  Aerobic exercise is a critical factor across all levels of development (Chaddock et al., 2012; Kramer et al., 1999;
Pontifex et al., 2011), and can be accomplished in whatever manner is fun and appropriate for the individual.  As always, consult your doctor for guidelines if you are new to exercise.

In common language, what does all the scientific jargon mean?  The simple answer is start moving at your level if you are sedentary or have minimal physical activity.  Different areas of the brain light up with specific movements of the arms, legs, and torso.  Which movements do what, science is not sure yet, just that moving improves brain functions.  Scientists do know that the hippocampus is the area of the brain most positively affected by physical exercise.  The hippocampus is responsible for memory and learning functions, so using it in new ways helps your overall ability to stay focused on everyday tasks.  We all want to live longer and without assistance, so get out there and exercise your brain by exercising your body.

 

For more information on an example of a physical exercise program to improve brain function, go to the Movement Academy site and see if it is right for you.  If you have questions or comments, email Matt Peale at mpeale@ltmacademy.com

Can You Teach an Old Dog Old Tricks..

As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  In working with Baby Boomer generation and senior citizens, it’s more can you teach an old dog old tricks they don’t think they can do anymore.  The short answer is yes.  The science of neuroplasticity states just that concept.  Medicine Net defines neuroplasticity as the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.  As people age and become more sedentary, they learn new (and yes bad) habits in regards to posture and movement.  Through exercise, people have to relearn the movements and habits they had as younger adults.

Does this mean exercise can reverse the signs of aging and years of poor healthy habits?  No.  What a structured physical exercise program like Learn To Move Academy can do, is teach Baby Boomers and senior citizens the movement patterns they stopped doing years ago.  It’s not about how much weight a person can lift, but building in the neuroplasticity to perform these tasks in an efficient manner to reduce injury and strengthen muscles, bones, and connective tissues.  Once the movement patterns are reintroduced, then it is a repetition and quality of practice issue.  Time spent on performing over and over again these movements with correct form and appropriate resistance (if necessary) is the only way to learn and improve.  Take the time and invest in some kind of professional help to ensure you are starting at the correct point and progressing in a reasonable manner.

The mental benefits of learning new old movement patterns are just as beneficial as the physical ones.  Tons of new research coming out on physical exercise reducing symptoms of dementia and improving cognitive functions.  Go learn those old tricks, your heart, brain, and muscles will thank you!

 

Matt Peale is a certified personal trainer with NASM since 2009 and the Sales Director/Partner at Learn To Move Academy.  Soon he will be contributing a monthly article to Boomers Lifestyle Network magazine.  Contact Matt with any questions or comments at mpeale@ltmacademy.com.