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Move with Your Brain for Paleo Fitness

The brain controls all movement (in fact, the original need for a human nervous system, from an evolutionary standpoint, was to coordinate movement). The brain contains hundreds of billions of neurons (cells), with each single neuron making thousands upon thousands of connections to other neighboring neurons. These neural connections are the circuitry that enables all activity — both mental and physical.

To illustrate this point, think of riding a bike for the first time. It likely felt clumsy and awkward. If you tried it without training wheels, you may have even fell onto the pavement (and probably more than once). Your brain worked hard to establish the neural pathways to enable you to perform this activity efficiently.

But with enough practice, patience, and band-aids, the day finally came when riding a bike felt effortless. Finally, your brain hard-wired the neural pathway for this activity, everything coordinated efficiently, and the ride was smooth.

Functional and efficient movement relies on connections in the brain. For the most part, you hard-wire these connections throughout early development by crawling, rolling, rocking, and eventually walking. You’re designed to move beautifully, so it’s part of your natural circuitry. However, the brain, like other muscles, follows a use-it-or-lose-it principle.

When you challenge your brain, it has the ability to adapt — to create new neurons and new neural connections. But when you neglect your brain, these connections may break down. Over time, you may lose your ability to move functionally.

The more you move, the more you feed the brain, and the stronger the infrastructure becomes. You could even go so far as to think of movement as the ultimate brain-enhancing drug — it stimulates the growth of new cells and keeps the brain biologically young.

Understanding the consequences of stillness

Stillness, or a lack of physical activity, has many potential consequences, such as the following:

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Depression

  • Increased risk of injury

  • Loss of bone density (higher risk for osteoporosis)

  • Muscular atrophy (the weakening of muscles)

  • Obesity

  • Poor self-image

  • Sleep apnea

There’s no such thing as a wrong movement. You can suffer only from a lack of or underprepared movement.

A lack of movement is like a drought of sunshine, water, or food. Movement is as essential to your livelihood as good soil is to the health of a plant. Unfortunately, modern conveniences, such as cars, elevators, and escalators, have replaced much of the need for frequent, low-intensity movement.

One possible solution to combat these “conveniences” is to reject them and revert to a truly Paleolithic lifestyle. But doing so would surely flip you over the edge of reason and make for an unnecessarily difficult life. Can you imagine having to club your dinner to death every night?

Instead, here's a more reasonable alternative: short bouts of movement performed intermittently throughout the day.

Aging gracefully with movement

Movement is the ultimate antiaging supplement for both your body and your brain. Best of all, movement is cumulative, meaning that small movements performed throughout the day are just as effective, if not more effective, than performing all of your movement at one time. The same goes for exercise, too!

The primal movements demand little time, effort, or equipment. All you have to do is remember to do them. Most of the movements involve rolling, crawling, and rocking:

  • They’re specifically designed to stimulate the brain in a developmental fashion (by mimicking how babies first learn to move) and, therefore, restore functional movement.

  • They make for fun and effective warm-ups before exercise.

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