A few days ago, we had the privilege to speak at the Jodi House Brain Injury Recovery Center. Its director of programs, Cheryl Hermann, is a Noozhawk reader who said she had been reading our column and loving our approach. She might have also mentioned laughing at our wacky humor. Who can resist that great attitude?
So she contacted us to ask whether we would speak with Clubhouse Day Program members on some of the ways exercise affects the brain.
An audience? Free snacks? And a chance to talk on a subject near and dear to our hearts while contributing to our fantastic community?! Game on, Jodi House Clubhouse members and Cheryl!
The following are some of the methods we shared with the members and staff on easy, practical ways to enhance your brain.
While pretty much any type of exercise will help the brain (and body, of course), certain approaches give you the most bang for your brain buck. So which elements are the ones to pay attention to and incorporate into your workout program if you have a goal to improve cognitive abilities? Add any one or a combination of the following:
» Try something novel. Change up your exercise routine every so often. Good for the body, bodacious for the brain.
» Perform cardio. Strength training is important and fantastic for many reasons. And if a key goal is brain boosting, ya’ just gotta get that cardio in.
» Follow somewhat complex movement patterns. Sounds like you might need to get into a class or activity with music and choreography — square dancing, step class, cardio kickboxing, ballroom dancing. Running and cardio equipment are certainly wonderful and useful. But the repetitive nature of these options is not the brain helper that an aerobic class with combinations and patterns is. Get into the group fitness room people!
» Move to music with polyrhythmic beats. Also called “cross-rhythm.” This means you should change up the tempo of your movement. Jazz (some rock) music and eastern music are pretty good at polyrhythms, so mix up the choices on your iPod. For example, the string section could be doing a simple harmony, while the trumpet section focuses on a theme that is dissonant. A good example of this is Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk.” Works by Charles Ives also fit into this category. Pretty much makes those group fitness cardio classes the place to be for brain work!
» Engage at least two senses simultaneously, such as touch and sight. For example, you could move to music and clap your hands. Touch and sound. Or copy an instructor’s moves going forward to touch a wall, then back to tap your foot on a line. Sight and touch.
» Listen for cues or commands. Looks like we have a winner with any kind of dancing that has a caller and any kind of strength or cardio class with cues. The act of listening, then translating those cues into action strengthen your brain power.
You don’t have to put all these elements together into one workout to reap gains, but you sure could be time efficient if you did!
Oh, and a bonus factor that aids brain growth is:
» Get sufficient sleep — preferably not while engaging in the aforementioned group fitness workout.
We discovered two key things giving our talk for Jodi House: 1) That place is ON IT! Apparently the members, staff, board and consulting experts already incorporate much of what we discussed. Turns out that 100 percent of the members engage in regular exercise, some of it through the services Jodi House provides — 100 percent! Not even 100 percent of the people we see in the gym actually exercise. 2) Jodi House is doing some amazing work with people who have suffered brain trauma through car crashes, strokes, cancer and other events.
They provide supportive services, information and programs in a nurturing environment to help brain injury survivors and their families recover and reconnect to their community. We met people who are husbands, daughters, dads, friends and sisters to people you and I know and love here in Santa Barbara. Jodi House programs are sustained solely by volunteerism and private financial contributions. All services to brain injury survivors and their families are free of charge.
So, if you’re looking to do more than enhance your own brain power, contact the Jodi House. Send money; find out how your expertise can help their members. That’s a pretty good brain boost right there!
Click here for more information about Jodi House, or call 805.563.2882.