Learning New Sports & Brain Health

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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.


Posted in Beginners

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