For those of you who follow these posts, you probably already know Ric and I love a walk. We walk around our local woods almost every day. We’ve even joined ‘borrow my doggie’ because we walk so much, we SHOULD have a dog!
Physical exercise benefits our health in many ways- it improves our circulation (great for desk jobbers), tones the respiratory system, improves the oxygen/co2 exchange, helps the body eliminate waste, stimulates release of endorphines, improving our mood and enhances immune function. The list goes on.
But when I was doing some research for the sleep workshop I run and was looking into what the brain is busy doing while we sleep, I stumbled across some enlightening information that I thought I would share.
As human beings we are designed to walk, but there is a special benefit to this action of walking that you don’t necessarily get from all other kinds of exercise.
Cross-patterned or contralateral movement is when the opposite sides of the body work together (e.g. right hand touches left knee, left hand touches right ear) namely, the natural movement of your limbs as you walk.
Until babies learns to crawl they moves in a homo-lateral pattern. This means that the right hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body and the left hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body. The cross-pattern movement builds the bridge between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, allowing for electrical impulses and information to pass freely between the two and integrate both motor and cognitive functions.
These patterns are stored in the brain and are responsible for governing our nervous system, spinal muscles and coordination, and programming our bodily systems to work optimally.
All of your bodily systems depend on cross-crawl integration, even cerebral activities, such as learning language, reading, hand-to-eye coordination and communication. Fortunately, you can reprogram your nervous system and strengthen the connection between the right and left sides of your brain using cross-crawl exercises. This should help improve focus, increase energy and reduce stress among other things, and keep your brain strong and active.
So, it turns out, a daily stroll is ideal for strengthening that connection between the right and left sides of your brain…. I should really be Einstein by now! But bringing it back to my sleep workshop, helping your brain function better during your waking hours will have the knock on effect of supporting all the busy brain processing going on while you sleep, helping you wake more refreshed and alert for the day ahead.
If a daily walk is out of the question, why not try a cross-crawl exercise. Here are two suggestions:
• Lift your left leg, bending at the knee in front of you and touch it with your right hand and then alternate. Repeat several times.
• Keeping your spine upright, lift your straight right arm forward as though reaching for something while pushing your straight left leg backwards behind your body and alternate. Repeat several times.