A Quick Look Into Exercise and the Brain

Using Exercise to Re-Wire Your Brain

By: Jason Simanson P.E.S., Movement Coach-One Nature Training

Neuroplasticity is vastly becoming the focus on brain changes in the psychological, physiological rehabilitation and scientific worlds, and finally the exercise and performance training world as well. All things we do and learn is stored in the brain and are constantly being reaffirmed or reconstructed to suit your activity as an individual. Especially when it comes to injury and pain, understanding brain plasticity and the ability to change your brains neuronal connections can and will help us recover faster and prevent future injuries, build better strength and coordination, and make for longer lasting results.

One thing reigns true in all the literature surrounding brain plasticity, learning with intense focus. Learning new things seems to play a heavy role in the wiring of the brain. From learning a new language, to writing with your non dominant hand, both of which would require your undivided attention. Let’s apply this to exercise, or more precisely learning new movement patterns. When learning new ways to move, like a baby does at the beginning of its life, this learning orchestrates the designing and structuring of our motor maps in the brain.

The typical understanding concerning an injury is what happens when the injured limb or area stops sending and receiving signals in order to protect the injury. Typically a dysfunction occurs because non primary motor functions take over the injured area and begin to steal, if you will, all the signals in order to keep movement going. This tends to lead to what is known as chronic pain. As time goes by and the injured area heals, a lot of people continue to suffer from chronic pain despite the area being healthy. An easy way to think of this manifestation is to understand when the injury occurs, which could very well be a minimal occurrence, back up motor functions take over the area in the brain for the primary motor function, causing overactive back up functions and underactive primary functions; i.e.  If your foot/ankle is injured or dysfunctional, your knee and hips will assume the primary role and can eventually cause dysfunctions and pain in your knee or hip even after the foot/ankle became healthy.

Our programs are based on this premise. To re-evaluate what movement is at its root source and what is causing the dysfunction in our current movement patterns. No matter the level of your currently perceived ability to move in space there is always something to learn or expand on. I believe when we simply move weights around to improve our strength, which I am not personally denying as a means to enhanced strength, we are not fully appreciating the importance of learning. Why? Because the majority of weight training is weight moved in single directional pattern and typically you are not moving in space as you would playing a sport, training a martial art, or walking in your day to day lives. That is not to say moving a weighted instrument in multiple patterns in space is not worth it, those exercises with the right design and intention can be extraordinary to learning and enhancing to your growth.

Our programs are primarily body weight exercises which are designed around the total functional ability of what are bodies are capable of. Our bodies can move in ways unperceivable to most. But when practiced with the intense focus and proper training methods our bodies will learn that it can rather than it can’t. Without taking a single pill to alleviate pain, moving our joints in a prescribed manner mixed in with simple brain exercises, like hand eye coordination drills, can recalibrate the proper range of motion and functional ability of our bodies as a whole thanks to our brains ability to be malleable and not fixed.

This type of training is also conducive when it comes time to learn, or go back into, more weighted training. As a trainer I have seen the benefits of both body weight training and weighted training. In my humble opinion the person who trains their body first to move in and out of their own load with ease and true balance will yield greater and longer lasting results when they begin to add external loads with weight.

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