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 firstname.lastname@example.org