Reinvigorating Cognitive Function

In life, sometimes it is easy to reduce sight of the important things. Exercise is no different and it is one of those missing links that produce up the backbone of our ability to operate optimally.

Our Brains and Bodies are Linked

Recent studies from the Department of Psychology at the University of North Florida* show that individuals can increase our working memory up to fifty percent by performing movements and exercises like running barefoot, carrying large and/or awkward objects (farmer’s walk), walking or crawling on a balance beam, and navigating various obstacles.

What’s Proprioception and What Role Does it Play in Cognitive Function?

Wikipedia defines proprioception as “the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.” Basically it happens like this: proprioceptive training places a large demand on our working memory because of continual changes inside our environment and terrain. To ensure that our neuromuscular systems to continue to perform optimally, we have to challenge our brains and bodies with stimuli which can be unpredictable and could make us think and react immediately.

Like What?

This might be anything from riding a skateboard psilo delic, bull riding, boxing, wrestling, or just walking on a curb. Dynamic challenges like this will make us consciously adapt our movements to the changing environment. Martial arts, dance, and gymnastics are ideal for proprioceptive enhancement, as they give movements which are uniquely different and therefore challenge and improve our cognitive abilities. Benefits include reduced danger of injury, increased stability, enhanced speed, quickness, and agility.

Proprioceptive Training and Injury

Proprioceptive training has already been proven to assist in injury rehabilitation. Rehabilitation programs address three levels of motor control: spinal reflexes, cognitive programming, and brain stem activity. These programs are created to increase dynamic joint and functional stability.

Even as we age, progressive cognitive decline is inevitable. Proprioceptive training has been shown to improve proprioceptive regeneration and cognitive demands in older adults. By performing challenging movements which can be unfamiliar to us, we continue steadily to recruit and write new neurological patterns. Much like any modification to one’s routine, it is very important that exercises are performed carefully and in a controlled environment to ensure safety and prevent injury.

Tips for Getting Started

So, make it a point out integrate new movements and exercises into your daily lifestyle by trying a number of the methods stated earlier, as well as challenging yourself on a regular basis. For example, try putting on your pants and shoes without keeping anything, washing dishes using one leg, or practicing simple movements with your eyes closed. A general principle to remember is that when something becomes too easy or natural, you cease to challenge your neuromuscular system.

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