Gong Fu Fighting for the Brain


What can martial arts like Shao Lin boxing, aikido, tai chi, judo, jujitsu, etc., do for your brain? For one, it gives you all the benefits of any physical exercise:

* Increases your body circulation—which means also your brain circulation.
* Revs up your metabolism
* Boosts your energy
* Lifts your mood
* Promotes self-confidence

All exercise is good. Some gives you better flexibility; others are good at building muscles.

Why Martial Arts?

Martial arts provides added benefits, such as ease and fluidity of motion, better balance, good hand-eye coordination. If you become good enough at it, you’ll be able to defend yourself against wackos. (Though street fighting can be quite different than sparring with strict rules and regulations in place.)

Long before doctors, scientists, and fitness instructors began touting the multiple benefits of exercise, long before physical fitness became a staple topic of the media (they sure love to run things to death), long before exercise gyms sprouted all over the landscape like the proverbial mushroom, long before neuroscientists made the connection between physical exercise and brain health—and way before I penned a sentence this long (for which I shall be excoriated by the proponents of clear, simple writing)—

Martial arts masters have exhorted the importance of exercise. That’s way before doctors or neuroscientists started touting the benefits of physical exercise to the brain. After all:

You Can’t Separate the Brain from the Body

I bet that if you were to ask the top neuroscientists THE ONE BEST WAY to keep your brain healthy and your mind sharp, they’d all vote for physical exercise. The concept is quite simple: The brain is part of the body. To have a healthy brain, you must have a healthy body. To have a healthy body, you must move. If you don’t move your body even your brain becomes weak.

That’s it, in a nutshell!

Get Your Brain Grooving

Get it? If you don’t move, you can’t stay healthy. And your brain can’t stay healthy. When your physical health deteriorates, your brain deteriorates too.

Being healthy is the starting point—and the most important point for brain health. How can you have good thoughts if you don’t feel well? Beware if you find your drive and stamina plummeting: it means that your cognition is markedly deteriorating. That’s true even if you’re not aware of it.

It’s good to get moving any way you can. (Always keeping safety in mind, of course.) If you can run in place while watching TV that’s great. But better still if you can start using your brain while you exercise.

How? Martial arts, as already mentioned. Or engaging in team sports. You’ll be forced to choreograph your movements and consider the outcome of anything you do.

Even if you’re doing aerobics or weight lifting, it’s best to review your moves and think about what you’re doing instead of mindlessly going through the motion. You can ask yourself how to improve your workouts and get greater benefit from them. Do that, and you’ll be exercising your brain even more. Don’t simply repeat the same moves over and over, ad nauseum, without thought. It’s important to give yourself the time to think. You’ve got to use your brain.

Move it or lose it.

Okay, if you’re a couch junkie, stand up and dust off your butt right now!

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