In my last post I introduced the principle of neuroplasticity as it appeared in an article in the Denver Post. The article reported a relationship between dancing and a decreased risk of dementia based on the principle of neuroplasticity.
So, what is neuroplasticity and what does it mean to us? How can we apply it to our everyday lives? Neuroplasticity can actually help improve our mental capacity and physical ability. Neuroplasticity refers to the flexibility of our nervous system to learn new things and allow for change through out our entire lifetime. Our nervous system (which includes our brain) stays healthiest when it is constantly active. Our brains are continuing to make new connections based on our experiences. The term “use it or lose it” certainly applies!
This may sound like a “no brainer” (please excuse the pun). However, it has only been fairly recent in the field of neuroscience have we discovered that neuroplasticity continues through our lifetime; previous belief had been that it stops at about age 14.
Okay, so what is the practical application? How can we use this to help our brain stay active and healthy? Introducing new experiences in our lives can be as simple as taking a different route home from work, or going to a different grocery store. All of a sudden, a mundane activity becomes a little more interesting, awakens your awareness, and stimulates brain activity. To take it a few steps further, try a new physical activity that requires engaging your mind, such as dance, Pilates, yoga, tai chi or other martial art. Try new creative activities such as knitting, needlepoint or crochet. Study music, a foreign language, art or poetry. Varying your life’s experiences from the very simple to the more complex will help you keep your brain healthy and functioning at a high level.
To review the article from the Denver Post click on http://www.denverpost.com/fitness/ci_17759916
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP