by Kusha Karvandi
When people think of fitness they think of hours spent on a treadmill, pumping iron, and calorie-counting. Few, however, would consider vision exercises part of their fitness. But exercises like these that influence activation patterns in the brain are an absolute must for anyone looking to optimize their strength, flexibility, hormones, and cognitive performance.
The reason I take this approach with my clients is simple: the brain is like a GPS. Like the GPS of a car, your brain is constantly trying to create a clear map of where your body is relative to space and time. It uses three satellite systems to gather the information necessary to do this: vision, inner ear balance, and muscles/joints.
In our modern lifestyles we sit way too much and stare at things like our computer screens and phones all day. This creates significant dysfunction in our so-called satellite systems, which lends our brain to create a blurry “map” of your body. The ramifications of a blurry map are an increased threat level of your brain, which means you’re likely to incur pain, tightness, decreased strength, brain fog, and more body fat storage. This is because your brain doesn’t have all the information it needs so it goes into hypersensitive, high-alert mode where it tries to overcompensate to protect your body (even if no real threat may be present).
Muscles and Joints
Let’s start biohacking your fitness by focusing on your muscles and joints.
Sitting all day jams joints into new fixed positions. This trains your brain to think your joints, such as your hips, have reached their end range of motion when moving even though they really haven’t. When you move around with poor mobility like this it presents a threat to your brain which creates a cascade of consequences: pain, tightness, decreased strength, increased stress hormones, bodyfat, etc. Based on this principle, your brain could defer pain almost anywhere in the body as a result.
If you’re too busy for traditional workouts, or maybe you think you’re not in shape enough yet, the best types of exercises for you are mobility exercises that help move your joints through their full range of motion. These exercises are designed to restore joint mobility to bring your brain’s threat level down. When your nervous system (brain) is optimized in this fashion your total quality of health & well-being will manifest itself in the form of increased flexibility, strength, muscle tone, metabolism, brain function (for productivity), etc.
Three exercises you can do at home or at the office to stay energized, fit, and strong
1. Split Squats – Put one foot up on your chair behind you and one foot in front, then dip your back knee down toward the floor into a lunge position. Do 3 sets of 15 reps at a slow tempo on each side. This is an excellent exercise to build lower body strength, while preventing low back pain.
2. Thoracic Glides – One of the worst things about sitting at a desk all day is that your spinal joints get jammed, this leads to weak muscles and drains your energy. Sit upright at your desk and drive your sternum up and out, extending your thoracic spine. Then relax and push your chest in the opposite direction to exaggerate thoracic flexion. Do 5-10 very slow reps. This exercise can and should be done 3-6 times per day.
3. Hip Circles – Stand with one foot in front of you and rotate your leg inward and outward. Based on which position is more challenging, hold that position and do 3 small circles clockwise and counter-clockwise (with the motion orginating from the hip). Repeat with the leg slightly across the body, to the side of the body, and slightly behind the body. Make sure to keep the spine “tall” and lengthened throughout these movements. Do this exercise on each leg, 3-6 times per day. This exercise is excellent for building perfect posture and for restoring energy.
Get started with these 3 exercises today, and come back tomorrow to find more about the other two important satellite systems, vision and inner ear balance!
Photo by Best Western Hotels on Flickr