Unwinding Cognitive Function

In life, sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the important things. Exercise is not any different and it’s one particular missing links which make up the backbone of our ability to function 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 areas of your body and strength of effort being employed in movement.” Basically it happens similar to this: proprioceptive training places a large demand on our working memory because of continual changes within our environment and terrain. To ensure that our neuromuscular systems to continue to execute optimally, we have to challenge our brains and bodies with stimuli which are unpredictable and can make us think and react immediately.

Like What?

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

Proprioceptive Training and Injury

Proprioceptive training has also 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 designed to increase dynamic joint and functional stability.

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 are unfamiliar to us, we continue steadily to recruit and write new neurological patterns. Just like any modification to one’s routine, it is important that exercises are performed carefully and in a controlled environment to ensure safety and prevent injury.

Tips for Getting Started

So, ensure it is an indicate integrate new movements and exercises into your daily lifestyle by trying a few of the methods mentioned previously, along with challenging yourself on a regular basis. For example, try putting on your own pants and shoes without holding onto anything, washing dishes on one leg, or practicing simple movements along with your eyes closed. An over-all guideline to keep in mind is that when something becomes too easy or natural, you cease to challenge your neuromuscular system.

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