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

Exercise Prescription for ADD/ADHD?

So your child has ADHD or you have ADD, yes really not just because friends make fun of you.  You all know the kid who has problems in school and when he or she does not take their medications.  But what if there is something more natural and without negative side effects?  Turns out old reliable exercise can help kids and adults with ADD/ADHD manage the symptoms.  As always, consult your personal doctor for what is best, but imagine the only side effect is a stronger and healthier body!

American Professional Society of ADHD and Related Disorders

ADHD in simple language is the brain’s neurons in the attention system not communicating consistently to each other.  Sometimes the messages come across whole, sometimes they do not at all or have been partially chopped off.  A study in the Journal of Attention Disorders showed that doing moderate to vigorous intensity exercise forty-five minutes a day, three times a week, for ten weeks improved cognitive function and behavior in children with ADHD. The reasoning behind this improvement is that exercise can help the growth of new nerve cells. Children are constantly developing physically and mentally, which are times when neuroplasticity is also at its height.  Learning new functions requires the brain to build new neural pathways which can help the lapses in the attention system improve.

Does a child need to run a marathon, play soccer, or weight lift?  Dr. Michael Lara suggests challenging activities like martial arts, rock climbing, and ice skating are better than just aerobic exercise.  The complex movements activate various areas in the brain associated with balance & stability, endurance, and coordination.  Have you ever stood on one leg and reached down to touch your toes?  Easy at is sounds, many people fall over doing it.  The ADHD brain has a need for structure, variety, incorporating new skills, and a way to measure results.  Talk to a professional and determine what activities make sense for your child’s age and development level.  In some cases, medications have become more effective with exercise and/or replaced based on a doctor’s approval.

 

Check out www.movementacademy.net and their web based program that may help your child improve.  Contact Matt Peale at mpeale@ltmacademy.com for any questions.  Remember, exercise has so many more benefits than physical and costs generally nothing.  Give it a try!

Healthy Habit Setting

We all have heard the classic it takes 21 days to set or change a habit.  How many of you have documented proof that on day 21 you have completely learned or unlearned a bad habit?  Not very many of you have this proof.  One of the reasons is science now tells us after 21 days you barely 1/3 of the way to making that change permanent.  In a study found in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it states that changing habits takes 66 days!  No wonder it is so difficult to make changes that last.

In today’s “give it to me now” society, 66 days seems like 66 months.  What is a person to do about this?  Well the range of days is actually 18-254, depending on the person.  The point is learning new healthier habits takes work and is not easy. Stick to a challenging yet realistic plan that sets you up for success.  If for some reason you do not accomplish the goal for the day, no worries, everything is fine, start again the next day.  Continuing to build momentum toward making a permanent change is the main focus and having a bad day or two is just human. With weight loss for example, two to three pounds a week is what you will average out when your weight goal is done.  It starts with making better choices on a daily basis and learning from the failures and successes.

The motivation comes from your Why.  If your Why is not big enough, your habit will not change.  Think about your Why everyday and let it guide you to make those healthier choices of walking, eating less sugar, or lifting more weight than usual.  Adding up the small daily wins gives you the huge victory in 66 short days later!  Get some support and accountability, then change your mindset to a longer view than tomorrow.  A healthier you is loved and appreciated by everyone you have a relationship with: business, family, friends, and personal.

Matt Peale is not immune to bad habits.  He hates getting up early to exercise like anyone else, even though he is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer.  Contact him at mpeale@ltmacademy.com any time.  Also Like his Facebook page and check out how Learn To Move Academy can help your school, sports team, and Active Aging process.

 

Have You Watched a 10 Year Old Touch Their Toes Lately?

When was the last time you noticed your child’s or any other child’s range of motion and flexibility?  Have you noticed they have problems touching their toes or even ankles with straight legs?  In addition to the obesity and sedentary epidemic, there has become a lack of muscle flexibility epidemic.  In working with youth ages 8-13 on a regular basis, a large percentage of them male and female have horrible flexibility.  Their lower back and hamstrings are so tight and underused they can barely stand on one foot much less bend at the waist to touch their foot.  Ask a child to perform a sumo stretch as in the picture below and you will be astounded by what you see.

Flexibility is one of the core components of overall fitness.  Yes, it is a use it or lose it skill.  Children are more pliable than adults due to their bones still hardening as they mature and hit puberty.  With kids sitting and starting at video screens more often, they are also losing range of motion that is extremely difficult to get back as an adult.  Does this mean you have to enroll your child in Bikram Yoga?  Absolutely not.  What it does mean is teach your child some basic warm and cool down stretches as part of their sports and activities.  Proper dynamic (in motion) stretching before movement, and static stretching after movement is completed.

While touching your toes is not an Olympic event unto itself, practicing flexibility movements does reduce injuries and is part of a healthy lifestyle.  Take a few minutes with your students, children, and athletes to work on their stretches in good form.  It’s the habits we instill in them now that change our next generation.

 

Matt Peale has seen his fair share of kids have the flexibility of a 70 year old as an NASM Certified Personal Trainer.  Contact him at mpeale@ltmacademy.com and check out Learn To Move Academy for your school and sports organization.

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.

Balancing Act for Seniors

Slips, trips, falls.  Broken hips, wrists, and twisted ankles.  Taking a wobbly step and recovering as a 30 or 40 year old something becomes more difficult as a 60 and 70 year old something.  One of the first physical attributes to go as a senior citizen is balance.  Often times we take balance for granted that it will always be there when we need it.  The unfortunate true story is that balance is a use it or lose it skill.

According to the CDC, one-third of adults over 65 fall each year.  Some of the reasons may be medical such as positional vertigo, Labrynthitis, and vestibular neuronitis.  In these cases a doctor can diagnose and treat with medication the symptoms and or causes of the disease.  When no medical condition exists, it is often due to atrophy and lack of use due to sedentary lifestyle.  The good news for non medical issues is that balance can be relearned and to an extent restored.  In teaching senior exercise classes, one common area they all want to work on are movements to regain the balance they lost over time.  Quality of life for otherwise healthy seniors is typically top of the list for why they exercise.  So the question becomes, what can someone do to stabilize and improve their balance.

A simple yet can feel complex move is to stand on one leg and bend at the waist to touch your knee, ankle, or toes.  Sounds easy enough, and you would be very surprised to see how many people regardless of age fall over from this basic task.  Another balance move even more basic is to stand on one leg for 5 to 10 seconds.  Try doing it on each leg not just your dominate side.  Once these movements are mastered, do them with eyes closed.  Not having any visual cues is a game changer and can be more challenging then when you first started eyes open.  There are many pieces of equipment to use like BOSU balls, physio balls, and balance plates, but if standing on one leg is difficult, no use investing in equipment to clutter the house.

 

How do you know if your balance is really off, try doing an everyday task on one leg.  At first it will be difficult, but if you can master it in a few attempts that is normal and remember to use both legs individually.  If the task still cannot be mastered after multiple attempts, it may be time to invest into a program that can stabilize, strengthen, and improve coordination of your muscles.  According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non fatal injuries for older Americans.  Look into a program like Learn To Move Academy, and don’t be part of these statistics, get up and move around everyday.  Just being active may save your life!

 

Matt Peale is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer since 2008 and a partner in New Orleans area based Learn To Move Academy.  You can Like Learn To Move Academy on Facebook and email Matt at mpeale@ltmacademy.com.

Can Exercise Improve Brain Functions?

First of all I want to make the point I am not a scientist or doctor, I am an NASM Certified Personal Trainer since 2009.  Like all blogs, they are a mixture of fact and opinion.  With that being said, scientists can attribute positive effects of physical exercise on academic performance in youth and memory skills in senior citizens.  What has not been proven yet are any specific movements, i.e. push ups, squats, plyometrics, etc., that contribute to cognitive development.

In a study by the CDC called “The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance”, it highlighted that one or more positive correlations were found in 11 of 14 studies between physical education and  indicators of cognitive skills, academic achievement, and/or academic behavior.  In a study titled “Beneficial Effects of Physical Exercise on Neuroplasticity & Cognition”, the findings point to a slower rate of memory decline in people at the age of 53 who exercised twice-a-week between the ages of 36 to 43.  Additionally, Gray matter volume was larger for those individuals who exercised compared to those that did not.

What does all that mean in plain, simple American English?  Well, it means that beyond the physical benefits of exercise, the mental benefits are just as important. To properly engage the correct muscles when doing load bearing movements, you have to think about using those muscles.  Not only does thinking about using the correct muscles improve performance, but it also decreases the risk of injury.  Using the proper form, coordinating the movement of multiple muscle groups, and breathing at the right time through a movement all use brain power and concentration.  Combining all of these factors in a structured exercise program, it contributes to the positive results in memory the studies found.

The unfortunate reality is 1/3 of America is considered obese by the CDC and childhood obesity is also too high.  If heart disease, stroke, and diabetes risk factors don’t get you moving, maybe saving your brain will.  Learn To Move Academy can help your school’s PE program and assisted living facility with a web based custom program to boost your cognitive skills and maybe just help your physical conditioning.  Email Matt Peale at mpeale@ltmacademy.com with any questions.  Check us out on Facebook also, just get moving!