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Exercises

Maximize the Long-Term Cognitive Benefits of Physical Exercise

When most people think about aging gracefully, it’s often about keeping the wrinkles at bay or doing a weekly sudoku puzzle to stay mentally sharp.  Since the wrinkles are rapidly creeping up on me as well, I don’t have much advice on that front— other than suggesting that a healthy and varied diet of fish, fresh produce, and tons of water is what seems to slow them down.

I can, however, provide you with some interesting research on how varying up your usual routine can have long-term benefits for your cognitive health.

What’s at Play

Our brains store memories inside nerve cells. Multiple nerve cells communicate with one another through the release of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Even though we lose some brain cells and our brains generate fewer neurotransmitters as we age, we have the ability to produce natural growth-promoting molecules called neurotrophins. Neurotrophins signal particular nerve cells to develop, grow, function, or survive and it is the release of these neurotrophins that can help fight off the effects of mental aging. 

To start the flow of neurotrophins, the brain must be stimulated by novel experiences that disrupt our usual routines and engage the senses and emotions, according to research compiled in the book Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness,” by neurobiologist Lawrence C. Katz, PhD and author Rubin Manning. 

Brain Aerobics

Neurobics is a term coined by Dr. Katz, to literally mean “aerobics exercises for the brain” and the book suggests that practicing different neurobic exercises can act as novel experiences for the brain. Neurobics can be done anywhere, anytime by performing simple tasks in what seems like offbeat ways.

For example, you can try closing your eyes while unlocking your front door, simply brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, or walking backwards on a treadmill.  Our senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch) all have their own sections in our brains.

Categories
Exercises

Punch Strong: The Benefits of Correct Martial Arts Technique

Why Learn Properly?

My guess is that most of the members are cardio bunnies interested in a quick cardio workout. They do not imagine themselves ever using the punching and kicking movements in a real self-defense situation. If they only knew of the real psychological and physical benefits to taking the time to learn proper, basic martial arts technique before jumping in. They’d be hooked! Correct technique for self-defence is just the tip of the ice berg, the other benefits include:

  1. Reducing Injury. Knowing how to execute a technique correctly will prevent you from throwing haphazard strikes that could lead to injury.
  2. Getting Faster. Over time, executing good technique will raise your comfort level in the movement and allow you to increase your speed.
  3. Combating Sarcopenia. Once you have a hang of proper movement and begin to build speed, you can then focus on building explosive power. Explosive training activates type II muscle fibers and is very beneficial against muscle loss (Sarcopenia).
  4. Building Confidence. As you start to polish your technique and build good habits, you will start to gain confidence in your abilities.  The more you repeat good habits, the more confident you will be the next time you enter a class.
  5. Improving Reaction Time. You will have better ability to react and improvise when needed, based on the fundamentals you have learned. Whether it be to learn new fitbox class drills, or to anticipate an opponent’s next move and react accordingly.
  6. Strengthening the Body and Mind. There is something to be said for the mind-body connection that comes from being immersed in learning challenging martial arts technique. The very process of learning martial arts can put you into a meditative or Flow State (Flow State refers to when a person performing a challenging activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus and enjoyment, according to positive psychology and research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi). Modern neuroscience has associated a meditative or Flow State with changes in the electrical function of the brain that can relieve stress and positively affect your sleep, feelings of depression and anxiety, pain, breathing pattern, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Get to Work

So don’t jump into a cardio kickbox class and just follow the movements blindly. Instead begin by attending a martial arts class or watch videos that break down the movements for you. It may not be a quick solution, but there is such beauty and power in having the discipline to try and practice something correctly, over and over again.

I find this next quote by Bruce Lee to be very inspiring—no matter your starting level or interest in martial arts—as it can pertain to many different interests, fields and disciplines.

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

-Bruce Lee

I don’t like hitting the gym just to cross daily cardio off of my list. I’d rather work towards something bigger. My PositivelySTRONG Hit All Body Interval Training (HABIT) videos start by introducing basic fundamental movements and building on them. With repetition, you should aim to get better and better.

This week’s video places the focus is on the humble punch as performed in two basic stances. I’ll break down some of the basics for you until you can get to an actual class, then end with a 7-minute interval training session that you can repeat as many times as possible.

As always with my videos, be sure to warm up, rest in between sets, set out to execute techniques properly, and make the workout as difficult as you need by adjusting intensity.

To starting with positively strong basics,

Sunny