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Not all cognitive domains age at the same rate. For example, memory declines at a different rate than visual spatial function, which declines at a different rate than social interaction.
You’ll notice that some people’s memory declines, but they can still interact with people fairly well. Some people can’t move that well, but maybe their verbal fluency is strong.
Different cognitive functions have their own “lifespan”. In the future, we will discuss how we can target specific domains of cognition and how we can create a health program for say, better memory.
Oftentimes we help people reach their physical goal, but then what? Well, when we onboard them as a client and assess their cognitive “pain points” (focus, memory, processing speed, etc) whatever it may be, help them identify what they are doing well and what they are not, and identify an area in which they can first start to improve.
You can imagine that this won’t always land with your clients since they may be focused only on the physical aspects of their health and not their cognitive function as it relates to their pain point. In order to “soften the blow” in bringing up the brain, we need to link the conversation to something that truly matters to them, which we will address how to do in upcoming posts.
The solution? Just like you might “slip in” mobility exercises for someone who only cares about weight loss, you can sneak in brain games into rest periods for example. We will go deeper into this subject in another video/post.
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The Future of Exercise
Today, you may download Lumosity and open the app with the intent to work on your memory today. Well, what if you went to your gym and told your trainer, “I want to work on my memory today.”
We are starting to realize as a society how important memory, focus, and attention are in our daily lives. This is leading to a more well-rounded and integrative approach to exercise. My prediction is that if we can do this on a large enough scale, we can make an impact on the widespread rate of increasing cognitive decline across the world.
Which Cognitive Function Declines the Fastest?
Interestingly, the cognitive functions associated with motor output tend to decline before the rest. This is because we are an integrated system. There is a field of neuroscience called “Embodied Neuroscience” that basically says your brain is just as important as the body. There is not one part of the body that governs the entire system.
Studies done in the 40’s and 60’s took animals (unfortunately) and restrained them physically while giving them large amounts of cognitive stimulus. This resulted in little to no change in the brain due to lack of movement.
They took two twin kittens with the same genetics and same environment and put the in a small caged area. They restrained one while letting the other walk around freely. About a month later they assessed cognitive performance to find that the kitten that was restrained basically developed mental impairment (autism and early-onset dementia-like symptoms) at only two years old!
When they let the same kitten roam freely again, they noticed neuroplastic change with the more movement that it got.