Stimulating Brain Health with Physical Activity

By Adelaide Women's Physio | September 8, 2017

Why is combined physical and mental activity healthy?

Everyone has accepted the importance of regular exercise and physical activity for improving their physical health.  Physiotherapy has played a vital role in many people’s lives to enable them to participate better in activities of daily living, whether that be at home, at work, in a sporting or human movement situation.

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People should be aware of the importance of stimulating the brain to promote healthy mental activity, especially as we age.  Doing crosswords, Sudoku and other puzzles has been shown to stimulate cognition or brain centre activity.

What does neuroplasticity mean?

The brain thrives on many different challenging experiences.  This mental stimulation opens up neutral pathways within the brains cellular tissue.  Neuroplasticity refers to the brains ability to form new neural connections or pathways.  The brains structure can be remodeled with appropriate training exercises at any age.

How to promote brain health?

Some easy examples of brain stimulation during physical activity are:

  • When walking take different paths with different surfaces where your balance reactions are gently challenged. If you are concerned about your balance, physiotherapy can assist you before you take up this challenge.
  • Throw a ball in the air and catch it, or bounce the ball against a wall and catch it. Yes this may take you back to your childhood where you enjoyed to learn with touch, vision and sound stimulation.  You are never too old to do this easy exercise again and again.
  • When you are out walking, riding or jogging make a mental note of what you see and hear along the way. Recalling features of the sights sounds and colours at the end of the journey is extra brain stimulation.

These are simple examples that can be done daily and will cost you almost nothing.  Be creative and design your own challenges for your brain. Have fun enhancing neural pathways and enjoy the physical activity.

Never forget your brains health also requires a wonderful diet, sufficient hours sleep, cognitive challenges and less stress.

Who is working in the area of brain scope?

The so called father of neuroplasticity Dr Michael Merzenich, Professor emeritus neuro-scientist at the University of California. Dr Michael Merzenich is a worthy reference if you are looking for more ideas to stimulate your brain with healthy physical activity.

Professor Loriner Moseley, working at the University of South Australia, is a pain researcher. His writings and talks will further enrich your knowledge on neuroplasticity.