Welcome to part four! This section of the book will focus on the merging of concepts discussed in part two along with a multitude of cognitive training and exercise intervention strategies to reduce fall risk, improve movement, cognition, and quality of life.
- www.thepdbook.org for video demonstrations of everything discussed in part four. Watching videos will allow you to see exactly how to administer every technique and strategy written about here.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of it all, let’s go over some key points that will help to realize more optimal results:
- are designed to MOVE (a little history of movement): Somewhere around 10,000 years ago, before the emergence of farming and agriculture, humans were hunter-gatherers. In the interest of survival, they had no choice but to move and hunt and gather food. Otherwise, they would starve to death. The advent of farming, however created the circumstance where less movement was needed to acquire food. While hunting still continued and continues to this day (more as a sport for most), people had the option of going to a farm or market and buying various food products.
Moving forward thousands of years and through several phases of the industrial revolution, we arrived at the 20th century with the advent of the technological revolution. Progressively throughout these periods, less and less movement was required.
Machines, computers, tablets, smart phones, and other technology allows us to perform countless tasks without having to move anything other than our arms and fingers. Less or no movement is required to accomplish thousands of jobs, chores, and tasks that formerly required us to move.
This has, of course led to a sedentary lifestyle for many and is one of the biggest contributors to the current obesity epidemic.
As I write these words (early April 2020), we are in the beginning period of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has hit the world hard and caused a new way of living all over the globe. Gyms, restaurants, non-essential businesses, universities, churches, malls, and schools are closed. People are wearing masks and practicing physical distancing. Unemployment is at an all-time high and many are struggling financially and battling health issues.
People are staying home and quarantining. The initial few weeks of the pandemic has caused many to slow down, be introspective, and hit a reset button, of sorts.
Will this pandemic experience lead to a surge of people deciding to get out and move more? Only time will tell. I have lived in the same house for 27 years. Most days of the week, I ride my bicycle many miles on trails through the parks and into the village near me. Prior to the pandemic, I seldom saw people using the trails.
During this pandemic period however, I am happy to say that every time I ride the trails, I see people, couples, and families out and moving more than ever: walking, running, or bicycling. While the pace of life has slowed down, and people seem to be reassessing values and contemplating what is most important to them, it appears that movement may be on the rise. It is too soon to know if this is true, but let’s hope it is.
- Yes, it is true – when you move, your brain lights up. Billions of brain cells are fired up when you walk or move. This activity in the brain helps to improve brain health. When you stand up, your brain has to fire. It sends the message via the central nervous system and peripheral system to the appropriate muscles that coordinate your ability to stand, and bingo, you stand. For example, while you are standing, you engage in a multitude of isometric muscle contractions that hold the skeleton in an upright posture. If you consciously relax every contracting muscle while standing, you will collapse and fall.
When you walk, your brain is constantly receiving and processing information via impact forces coming in from the texture of the terrain you are walking on. The brain instantly processes this input and is constantly sending signals to your muscles with every step to keep you upright and moving.
Have you ever been walking and not noticed a step down, perhaps stepping off a curb you did not see? Hopefully, you did not fall. If you didn’t fall, it is because your brain instantly received input (perhaps a millisecond before hitting the ground) that caused an immediate firing of brain cells to send an emergency call to the appropriate muscles to contract, stabilize you, and keep you upright and moving. This is known as dynamic stabilization or reflexive stability.
Movement is vitally important for brain health! The more you move, the better it is for your brain. You will discover that many of the exercises we demonstrate will challenge the brain. The brain is like a muscle. The more ways you cause brain cells to fire, the more it helps the brain to develop new neural firing pathways.
- In many countries, barefoot movement is common. However, in the United States, we have somehow been programmed otherwise. You learned in part two that plantar skin stimulation helps to wake up the nervous system and brain. This will cause you to move better and reduce your risk of falling. If you have ever been told NOT to go barefoot (perhaps your podiatrist told you this), ask WHY? I am not a doctor, but doctor friends of mine who have done extensive research on barefoot benefits will tell you that the medical community generally knows nothing about the benefits of barefoot movement. So, get those shoes and socks off and give it a try. Practice safety and be sure you are walking in an area where you will not step on anything that could wound or hurt your feet.
- If you work in a facility that does not allow barefoot movement, consider having a conversation with your supervisor. Explaining the many benefits of barefoot movement may change their thinking. Often times, we see facilities using a dedicated area for barefoot movement.
- The research is in and there is a lot of it. When you practice movement outdoors, your brain lights up far more than indoors or in a gym. A nature environment offers a completely different experience than a built environment. Navigating through and interacting with nature calls for a higher level of focus. More brain cells are firing, and more muscles are being used in an effort to keep you from falling. Nature offers so much extra stimulation of the senses: visual (everything around you, whether objects are moving or not), audio (the sounds of nature such as birds chirping, dogs barking, the wind blowing, people moving around and talking – and of course man made sounds if you’re near traffic: car’s motorcycles, buses, etc.), and smell (the scent of the outdoors; trees, flowers, water, etc.)
- There is a thing called grounding. This is when you are outside and barefoot. Standing and moving on grass, dirt, stones (if they’re not sharp or painful to your feet) connects you with the earth. The earth has an energy. The benefits are huge and include boosting your immune system, waking up your central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and brain.
- Working out with another person lights up the brain even more. It allows for creative interaction during exercise the causes the brain to fire up even more. With a partner, you can play games, implement cognitive training techniques, interact, and have fun!
- If you are unable to go barefoot for any reason, try using a pair of Naboso textured insoles. They allow you to take the benefits of barefoot stimulation with you. If you do not have these insoles available, get your shoes and socks off, move around barefoot for a few minutes, then put on your socks and shoes and continue moving. The benefits of barefoot stimulation will have a carryover effect and help you move better. Other sensory input devices will be discussed throughout the section of the book and include Hyperice vibrating tools, Power Plate, RockTape kinesiology tape, and more.
- Use what you learn in this book along with what you already know. Try new things. Be creative. Have FUN. PLAY. It is good for your brain.
- Always listen to your body. If something is too much, your body will tell you and you can back off. At the same time, start out by pushing yourself just a little bit extra past your normal level of challenge or intensity. A little extra effort can go a long way and help you better towards reaching your movement and fitness goals. Challenge yourself!
- Nobody likes to do exercises they hate. After years of working out in a traditional gym setting, I realized that I pretty much hate it. I never enjoyed lifting weights and I made every excuse in the book NOT to lift weights. I skipped workouts all the time and that is no good. Eventually, I found that I very much enjoy heavy yardwork and gardening. I do this almost every day. And, in the winter, I like to shovel snow. Yardwork often gets me into a squatting position and gets me using a lot of muscles and in a different way. I used to enjoy running, but I don’t run anymore because of my recent hip replacement. Instead, I ride my hybrid bicycle, but rather than riding on roads (which I used to do all the time), I ride on trails. The has made bicycling a much better experience for me – and riding on trails is usually much more challenging and ends up being a better workout for the body and the brain!
If you hate running, don’t run. Do something else to elevate your heart rate and create BDNF. Perhaps running or fast walking suits you, but if not, you might like hiking, boxing, martial arts, bicycling, swimming, etc. Do what you like, and you will be more likely to exercise.
If you like working out in a traditional gym setting, do it! If you don’t, you will learn in this section of the book that you do not need a gym to exercise. Once again, do what you like to do and WILL do.