Learning New Sports & Brain Health - Chi Living

Learning New Sports & Brain Health

Posted by Katherine Dreyer on Tue Sep 13th, 2016, 3 comments

Learning New Sports & Brain Health

It’s no shock that learning a new hobby can strengthen your brain. However, when we think of learning new hobbies we often think of “intellectual” pursuits - such as learning a new language or learning how to write a story.

These intellect-driven hobbies are proven to increase white matter in the brain, which is incredibly beneficial. It helps our overall cognitive ability. However, it’s also been shown that learning new physical abilities can improve an incredibly important part of the brain - the motor cortex - which controls how we move.

“We have a tendency to admire motor skills,” said Dr. John Krakauer, a professor of neurology and director of the Center for the Study of Motor Learning and Brain Repair at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “We like watching athletes in action,” he said. ut most of us make little effort to hone our motor skills in adulthood, and very few of us try to expand them by, for instance, learning a new sport.”

So, by focusing only on learning “mental hobbies” we may be short changing ourselves, big time.

Past neurological studies in people have shown that learning new physical skills as an adult, such as juggling, can lead to increases in the amount of gray matter in parts of the brain related to movement and control.
Similarly, a 2014 study with mice found that when mice were introduced to a complex form of running wheel, which switched tempos and introduced obstacles - forcing the mice to adapt, their brains changed significantly. Learning to use these new wheels led to increased neurons in the animals’ motor cortexes. To put it simply, learning the new skill had changed the adult animals’ motor cortices.

So, what are we saying?

We’re saying that research has shown learning a new sport, or possibly learning a new way to do a familiar sport, is just as mentally beneficial as crossword puzzles, or other cognitively challenging tasks. So, learning to run with the mindful approach  the ChiRunning system offers - could have great mental benefits while also assisting in your overall body health. Something a crossword puzzle can’t do.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment below

S.K. Sherman Sep 14th, 2016 05:59pm

Fantastic—One of my recreational activities is flying my flight simulator.  I like to fly IFR and that exercises your brain in many ways.  Additionally, your physical attributes and reactions improve.  I find that my attention to details when I’m on the highway is more active after spending a couple of hours “flying” the simulator.  Etc.
I’m 78 and an avid exerciser.  Running at least 3 to 4 hours per week and lifting at least 3 days per week plus work full-time as a partner in a medical software company.  My wife is 76 and mimics my exercise regimen as my active partner. Her extra activity is Zumba. She is also a voracious reader and a professional artist.

Katherine Dreyer Sep 20th, 2016 12:39pm

Great to hear S.K.! Yes, using your brain during physical activity makes ALL the difference - Katherine

David Whisler Nov 25th, 2016 12:55am

Being a sports fan, this blog was an amazing read. Sports is such a genre which needs informative as well as stimulating facts and information - you got them all!

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