Use it or Lose it

Post by Adam Sayers

We all know that if you use your muscles, they grow stronger and if you don’t use them then they get weaker. More importantly, we should all know why. It is because your nervous system reacts the exact some way, the more you use it, the stronger it gets.
This process is called Neuroplasticity, which refers to changes in neural activities like pathways and synapses in response to your environment, behaviors, neural processes and bodily activities. What this means is that the nervous system is not static as previously thought but actually, an adaptive organ. And so, much like your muscles, it needs to be exercised.

A child is born with the same amount of neurons as an adult but what happens as they develop their sensory and motor skills is the connections (synapses) between the neurons grow at a rate of roughly 500 000 per day in the first year. That means the connections to other neurons grow from about 2 500 per neuron to 15 000 per neuron at two or three years old. Why does such a tremendous rate of growth occur? It’s pretty simple, everything that child encounters for the first few years is completely new! So the brain has to create a pathway in order to process it and create a memory of it.

The down side of this is that as we mature, we actually lose connections between those neurons because we tend to have set patterns in our lifestyles. So our brains only need certain pathways in order to cope and thus it trims the pathways it is not using. This starts to affect our nervous systems ability to cope or adapt to extra things that might happen in our lives and steadily become unable to cope with as much information or stress as previously. And seeing as your nervous system is what tells the rest of your body what to do, I would imagine you would want that to be as strong as possible.

So, how can you exercise your brain to be stronger. There are very simple things you can do that will not require massive changes on your part. Read more, take more time to rest, experience new things like tastes, smells, touch and sounds. You can change where and how you sit, eat something highly nutritious even if it tastes horrible, change the route you drive to work or maybe make an effort to meet new people. The key thing to take into account is variety, stop with the patterns! Exercise is huge for this, vary your exercise routines as much as physically or creatively possible. Vary your weights, exercises and intensity consistently. People who do this not only notice that they get stronger but they also feel sharper, have better concentration and are healthier overall. Purely because it creates new pathways, stimulating your brain in different ways and ,don’t forget, your brain manages every single function in your body! To unleash the full potential of your nervous system (and your body), exercise it with variety!

Dr Adam Sayers is a Chiropractor at both the Greenside Clinic and Pure Health Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa where he has been practicing for 5 years. He has special interests in family wellness and pediatrics and his passion for improved general health and the empowerment of people to make the right health and lifestyle choices. You can follow him on Twitter or contact him direct by mail

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