Brainy Benefits of Regular Exercise

Students are a regular and important presence at Aim2Walk.  They bring a young energy and insatiable yearn to learn. Today’s post comes to us from Allysha, a 3rd year Kinesiology student who has recently completed an 11 week internship with us.  Enjoy!

Neuroplasticity: (neural – plastic) The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by making new neurons and changing or making new neural connections.allysha blog

The therapists at Aim2Walk aren’t giving you exercises to practise at home just to bug you – your brain needs frequent stimulation to learn the new task at hand.

Making the Connection

Each time you learn something new, physical changes happen in the brain.  New neurons and new neural connections are made.  This happens in response to new information and sensory stimulation.  This is why it’s important to frequently practise a movement that you want to work on.  Visualizing what you want to happen and focusing on how the movement feels is also important to building new connections in the brain.

Adequate sleep is important to the health of every person. However, research has shown that new neurons and neural connections are developed during sleep.  When a new motor skill is learned, a new connection can be made that night.  Adequate sleep for adults is 7-8 hours a night, and 9 hours for youth. If you’re not getting enough, try to slowly increase sleep by going to bed 10 minutes early until you are used to a full night’s sleep.

In addition to the commonly known benefits – physical exercise can help delay dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by stimulating neural changes.  Neuroplasticity has also been linked to emotional benefits in people with depression, stress and anxiety.  Depression can be explained as a form of cell death, therefore neuroplasticity can be used to “rewire” the brain.

Use It Or Lose It

Plain and simple: exercise promotes cell growth regardless of age or ability. Neuroplasticity does not decrease or slow down with age; it slows down with less stimulation.  “Exercise” is a broad term that covers many training techniques and modalities that can be done at the clinic or at home.   The point is to be regularly exercising your mind to muscle connection by moving your muscles and joints in a way that is specific to your needs and goals.

Allysha

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