Are we replacing workouts that challenge us mentally?
It must be. The proof is in the way people say that ‘they are uncoordinated’ as a preface to any exercise they are about to partake in. The evidence is that in Australia (yep – this is not a worldwide phenomenon), we are removing any workouts with a challenging level of coordination from timetables and schedules. The proof is that the pendulum has swung from exercises challenging the body and mind to only challenging the body.
Are sedentary lifestyles weakening our mental capacity?
This has been a slow evolution, but it occurred to me, having had another one of those conversations with a self-proclaimed uncoordinated person, that years ago, people didn’t complain about coordination challenges. In fact, they welcomed it. It was as if being fit, lean, coordinated, flexible and strong was the goal people were striving for when they exercised. I started thinking about why it had changed. Indeed, we have the same number of arms and legs that we had then. The brain is about the same size and capacity. It may be because, as a society, we sit for such long periods we have lost the use of our arms and legs, or is it something else?
Did I wonder if, because of all sedentary activities, we had lost the ability to activate our muscles with mental commands? Or we were not challenging that aspect of our brains, that this area was poorly developed.
Older adults value workouts that train the brain
Having the opportunity to teach all ages, it amazes me that my older adult participants appreciate exercises that engage their minds. In fact, they say to me – often, that this is good for their brains and their COORDINATION. They love the challenges, and with determined looks on their faces, they strive to complete whatever is required. They appreciate that it might not happen today, but it will happen. The look on their faces is priceless when they finally achieve their desired goal. How is it that at a certain age, coordination becomes a necessity and not just ‘something that you have to be a dancer for’? I then considered, at what age was that?
Changing the language we use as a fitness industry
Looking at an exercise or everyday task and knowing how to position my body to achieve the goal is important to me. Fumbling and clumsily trying to complete activities is not something I want to ever experience regularly. One of the reasons I took up Booty Barre this several years ago was because it really challenged me mentally (and my butt and thighs, too – but that was definitely a secondary reason). I love Gymstick because it increases my neutral activation and helps me understand how my body works and is connected. The language people use needs to change; as a fitness industry, we can do that. For example, I don’t accept people saying that they are uncoordinated. I have a brother that is mentally challenged, so I know what real un-coordination looks like. I like rephrasing their words to – I haven’t done this before, but I would like to give it my best shot today. That is all that is necessary. Surely no one thinks they will be experts at a particular movement after their first workout. Still, after the first session, they are on their way to creating new neural pathways.
Coordination is essential
Sure, being able to run up a hill is a functional form of intensity training, but I also hope to miss the rocks that I might have tripped over too. Coordination is essential for everything.