Physical movement is the basis of a great amount of academic, social and emotional intelligence. Renowned neuroscientist Dr. Rodolfo Llinas, author of “I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self,” tells the story of the lowly sea squirt. These primitive organisms contain just 300 brain cells. On the first day of its life, the organism swims until it finds a permanent place to attach itself. Once it’s anchored, it does not move for the rest of its short life.
Here’s the fascinating part: the sea squirt has a primitive nervous system while it’s in motion. Once it finds its permanent anchor, it eats up its brain since it no longer needs it once movement has ceased. According to Dr. Llinas, the reason we have brains is so we can move, grow and develop.
In short, our bodies are hardwired to move.
Movement is critical for brain health at all stages of life. Even in old age, the brain can grow new neurons. Most age-related losses in memory or motor skills result from inactivity and a lack of mental and physical exercise and stimulation.
It's important to challenge your brain to learn new and novel tasks, especially processes that you've never done before. Examples include square-dancing, chess, tai chi, yoga, sculpting, making pottery or any other tactile process.
Working with modeling clay is an especially good way for seniors to grow new brain connections. It helps develop agility and hand-brain coordination, (like controlling the computer mouse with your opposite hand).
BREAK YOUR ROUTINE TO WAKE UP AND TRAIN YOUR BRAIN
Neurobics is a unique system of brain exercises using your five physical senses and your emotional sense in unexpected ways that encourage you to shake up your everyday routines. They are designed to help your brain manufacture its own nutrients that strengthen, preserve, and grow brain cells.
Created by Lawrence C. Katz, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center, Neurobics exercises are simple and can be performed by older adults of all abilities.
Here are some examples of Neurobics:
Try to include one or more of your senses in an every day task:
*Get dressed with your eyes closed
*Wash your hair with your eyes closed
*Share a meal and use only visual cues to communicate. No talking.
Combine two senses:
*Listen to music and smell flowers
*Listen to the rain and tap your fingers
*Watch clouds and play with modeling clay at the same time
* Go to work on a new route
*Eat with your opposite hand
*Shop at new grocery store
For more information about Neurobics and other brain exercises visit: http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/exercise.html