Orthopedic professionals such as physicians and physical therapists often refer to the human body’s kinetic chain – the notion that all bones, joints and “links” are connected, and that movement in one area can affect function in all areas.
While not officially part of the kinetic chain, it turns out the human brain is affected by (and can benefit from) bodily movement and exercise, as well, says Eagle River physical therapist Chris Wilson.
“Medical research have long supported the concept that movement is medicine when it comes to aging well and living a long and active life,” said Wilson, owner of Ideal Motion Physical Therapy in Eagle River. “This goes with keeping the brain healthy and alert, too, as studies continue to show.”
The evidence connecting the body and the mind was so strong, in fact, that in late December of 2017, the American Academy of Neurology issued new guidelines suggesting that exercising twice a week may improve thinking and memory in people with mild cognitive impairment.
It may also slow down the rate at which a person progresses from mild cognitive impairment to more serious conditions, such as dementia, said authors of the new guidelines.
Across the world, about 6 percent of people in their 60s experience mild cognitive impairment, or mental impairment that exceeds that of normal aging. The number jumps to above 37 percent for people 85 and older.
“It’s been generally accepted in the medical community that one of the most important things you can do to improve memory and protect yourself from memory loss is to make physical activity a part of your life,” said Wilson. “These guidelines simply reinforce the many ways exercise can promote healthy aging.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, adults who regularly engage in moderate aerobic exercise five to six times each week can reduce their risk of mild cognitive impairments (memory loss and comprehension) by up to 32 percent. They attribute these benefits to increased blood flow to the brain.
In addition to a boost in memory, physical exercise also improves mental function by boosting mood, helping with sleep, and reducing stress and anxiety.
“And let’s not forget,” Wilson added, “regular exercise comes with a seemingly endless amount of physical benefits – a strong heart and immune system, for instance, and stronger muscles, bones and joints – that contribute toward optimal health and long-term quality of life.”
A physical therapist is professionally trained to assess and treat people who are dealing with pain, injury, physical deficiencies and other issues that make it difficult for them move or exercise regularly. If a physical roadblock is keeping you from striving toward both a sound body and mind, says Wilson, a physical therapist can help put you on path toward improved health and happiness.