Fitness Trainer Magazine

Fitness Trainer January/February 2017

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Page 42 of 49

e think of the brain as necess- ary for life, but many animals live without one. Neuroscientist Daniel Wol- pert asks the question, "Why does the brain exist in the first place?" The answer may surprise you, as we think of our brains as a thinking and perceiving appa- ratus foremost. Your brain exists for action in the form of adaptable and complex movements. Proof of this concept is the sea squirt, an animal with a central nervous system who spends its early life swimming around. As an adult, the sea squirt latches onto a rock where it will spend the rest of its life. The first thing the sea squirt does, once it is no longer mov- ing, is eat its own brain and cen- tral nervous system -- yuck! The sea squirt no longer needs his brain once he becomes stagnant. Now think about the average American and what a sedentary lifestyle could be doing to the brain! Movement is the Stimulus for Brain Development Human babies are born with central nervous systems that are not fully formed and a brain that weighs one-fourth of the weight of an adult brain. It is motor activity that stimulates the de- velopment of sensory neurons. Each time the brain registers a movement, a neurological pathway is either formed or strengthened, and sensorimotor learning occurs. In cognitive development, movement actually precedes sensation and perception; meaning movement precedes awareness of movement. As nerves develop in the infant, they become wrapped in a fatty sheath conductor called myelin. Cranial nerves myelinate in order of importance for survival. The first cranial nerve to be myelinated in the human (at the end of the fifth month of gesta- tion) is the vestibulocochlear. This is a motor nerve that reg- isters proprioception, suggest- ing that movement is the most important function for survival. Action in Contraction Action in the form of muscle contractions, is one of the only ways we can affect and change the world around us. Even speech requires muscle contrac- tion to express what the brain is thinking. Thus, without move- ment, the brain would not be necessary for life. In the same way a body needs food to grow, the nervous sys- tem needs movement to devel- op. It is no wonder that 'moving' has become the popular pre- scription for combatting cogni- tive issues in the aging brain. W By Kaylee Cahoon

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