As we age, it's not just our muscles that need daily care and feeding. "Use it or lose it" applies just as much to our brains as to the rest of our real estate south of the cerebellum. Have you ever heard the term neuroplasticity? It has to do with our grey matter's ability to continually develop and adapt over our lifetime.
Working on creating these new pathways can help reduce the risk of dementia. As with many chronic health conditions, making healthy behaviour choices every day goes a long way to improving life for our future selves. You know: prevention is key.
Several of the recommendations to create new pathways and maintain brain health figure prominently in my balance and fall prevention exercise guides. The first, of course, are the exercises themselves. Even a minute of movement and physical activity counts towards rewiring your noodle.
But there’s more. You see, I created simplified illustrations to accompany the detailed step-by-step instructions, so you have to work harder to understand the exercise. That’s because learning details of the exercise sequence in writing is like learning a new language, which is a second key recommendation to improving brain health. You’ve spent a lifetime moving your body about without thinking too much about how to move it. When you slow down to read how to complete the exercise and then apply that learning, you’re strengthening both your muscles and your brain.
Finally, the exercise instructions include a visualization cue: “Your feet are a seesaw, moving up and down in a controlled fashion.” Visualizing how to move is yet another way your brain is staying strong and healthy.
Give yourself a hearty pat on the back if you’re doing at least one of these brain-boosting activities. And if you’re doing all three, that’s even better!
Try this at home: Below you’ll find an example of the exercise instructions, illustration, and visualization cue from my upcoming 10th book, Chair Exercises for Fall Prevention.
Amanda Sterczyk is a Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor. She offers in-home personal training in central Ottawa. Amanda specializes in helping older adults maintain and increase strength, flexibility, and mobility. No fitness goal is too small, in her opinion.