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  • How to exercise the brain

    by LIZ KOCH – Special to the Sentinel

    We all know exercise is essential for good health, mental alertness and emotional well being — but how many of us ever exercise our brains?

    My grandmother, who lived to be 99, could remember everyone’s birthdays (spouses, grandchildren and friends) and many details of her life and the current events of those she loved and met. She told me that to keep alert she would intentionally exercise her memory.

    “Brain gym” is what local clinical psychologist Katherine O’Connell, calls intentionally exercising the bridge between the brain’s two hemispheres. When strong and resilient, the bridge called the corpus collosum strengthens the communication between the right and left hemispheres.

    People who have a strong communication across the bridge are less prone to depression and mental aging. For optimal brain functioning, it’s essential for the two sides of the brain to be integrated and functioning holistically. Exercising the brain is not a new idea. Its roots lie in ancient healing traditions and cultures. Even in America, we have our brain exercises built into traditional crafts such as knitting, crocheting and beading. That may be why my grandmother was so successful keeping a lucid memory and staying so alert. She loved handwork and spent many hours working her right and left hand in rhythmic motion.

    Cross-patterning exercises are also used successfully for physical trauma. By retraining the proprioceptive system, these activities strengthen the nervous system that organizes posture, coordination and orientation in space.

    Learning to exercise your corpus collosum will make your mind resilient and fast thinking. Just what the doctor ordered for those of us wondering where we left our keys.

    Liz Koch is the Way of Life health education coordinator. Original article Launched: 09/16/2002 3:00:00 AM PDT reprinted with permission from the Santa Cruz Sentinel