Throughout the history of neurological research, it’s been proven that one’s involvement in exercise expands one’s brain functioning; in turn, I think “exercise” is a paradigm where several different fitness modalities can fall under. In this piece, I will discuss the notion of unilateral loading on one’s body, as well as the mind. You will learn how to train your brain and body to achieve great results in increasing your mental capacity.
Brain, On Exercise
The National Library of Medicine conducted a study showing that “Physical exercise has been shown to increase brain volume and improve cognition in randomized trials of non-demented elderly”. Now, throughout this trial the exercises were restricted to the confines “Tai Chi” and other accredited fitness practices. Imagine, if one could extract the mental benefits of exercise without getting caught up in the mishegas of today’s fitness crazes. Enter, the unilateral loading.
What Is Unilateral Loading?
Unilateral, for all intents and purposes, is prompting/loading one side of the body, but not the other. Typically, in the fitness community, unilateral loading is used to correct physical imbalances (leg muscles, biceps etc.); with that being said, as a student of Integrative Neuroscience, I see loading unilaterally as a challenge both physically and mentally. For example, balancing on one leg is unilateral loading in its most refined state. Of course, there’s clear muscle recruitment, but there’s an overwhelming amount of focus needed to maintain that sense of physical symmetry.
Check out this video where, fellow HKC instructor, Al Kavadlo conducts a one-legged squat.
Obviously, this level of fitness is not expected of you; just notice the amount of mental (albeit, physical) energy required in contrast to doing a basic, run of the mill squat. Interesting, right?
Loading the Brain
To provide you with a crash-course in basic neuroscience; images which one visually perceives in the left visual field is processed by the right hemisphere via the optic chiasm (visual converter, if you will). With that in mind, let me give you a prevalent example of neurological unilateral loading.
Growing up, I’ve always written with my left hand, albeit, the writing was riddled with scribbling and illegible marks. Leading one to wonder whether I was a true lefty; as a result, I began to practice writing with my right hand. While this transformation to become as normal as you “righties” was a failure, my left hemisphere was challenged to react to this new stimulus I forced upon it. Albeit, this is sort of a lame example, it should show you that exercises which separate portions of the body, or even brain, have merit because of their ability to focus on different hemispheres of the brain. All that being said, this is yet another way for us, mentally curious spirits to continue our journey to mental excellence.
Hemispheres, In Isolation
Studies show that people who use the right hemisphere of their brain more than their left are more prone to creativity. Allowing researchers to infer that, generally, lefties are more creative than righties. As mentioned previously, the notion of writing with opposing hands forces one to utilize a hemisphere of the brain which doesn’t get worked as often. Personally, as a lefty, I’m quite disorganized (organization is associated with the left hemisphere), so by using my right for more activities such as, squeezing a stress ball while studying (personal favorite), writing, or even lifting weights one is more inclined to use this dormant hemisphere in a more accessible fashion.
As for the mother who wishes for the answer for the summoned question, how do we incorporate this into a daily routine for our toddlers and youthful brains which require constant mental stimulation? Well, there’s a number of ways. Obviously, games are the most effective way; during school required “gym” classes, unilateral motions can be incorporated seamlessly without the child even realizing the neurological benefits. For example, lateral jumps, focusing on jumping into side planes, left plane using the right hemisphere, right plane using the left hemisphere. Yes, it’s that simple. Albeit, the results are subtle, mental growth is not achieved without consistency and attention to deal.
Understand that your mental capacity for growth is beyond recognition. Something which I like to preach is that “we are not assigned a limit to our mental capacity, so why not max out?” As a college student, I’ve learned that credit cards do have limits, which means they max out. Your brain is not a credit card, the only “maxing” out you may encounter is the occasional study break after your finals. As a fellow survivor of finals week, you are entitled to that; that being said, be hungry to expand your brain volume and restless in your aspiration to acquire new facets of intellect.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jacob Scharf – Wake Up World Contributor
Binghamton University – Neuroscience Major