We’re all familiar with the concept of boxing. A contact sport that involves strategically punching an opponent while at the same time defending yourself from return punches. Those very punching and jabbing moves that are often associated with knocking someone out in a ring are now being used to help knock out cognitive decline. That’s right, a form of boxing called neuroboxing is helping patients with Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases improve their brain health and live more productive lives.
What is Neuroboxing?
Neuroboxing is a non-contact form of boxing designed to strengthen the body while physically and mentally helping the brain. It uses traditional core boxing moves to create a workout that focuses on strength, speed, agility, endurance, hand-eye coordination, and footwork. The quick, swift movements force participants to pay close attention, focus, and think fast.
One key element of neuroboxing is learning proper footwork and patterns. This is beneficial for patients suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s because it challenges the brain and helps to build up cognitive reserve.
Because you have to be fast when boxing and maintain proper form, your brain is forced to process things rapidly. It’s basically your brain exercising, which helps to increase its neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt and change due to experiences. A gradual loss in neuroplasticity is a normal part of aging. However, an accelerated loss is predictive of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Benefits of Neuroboxing
It’s a known fact that regular exercise, including aerobic exercise and strength training, is crucial to overall health, specifically brain health. Non-contact boxing, such as neuroboxing, incorporates both of those types of exercise. In addition, it helps to build balance and mobility, which helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s patients from falling.
Other benefits of neuroboxing include the following:
- Increases physical fitness
- Reduces inflammation
- Combats risk factors for cardiovascular disease
- Strengthens the heart
- Increases blood flow to the brain
- Improves working memory and reaction time
- Bolsters cognitive reserve
Other Exercises to Boost Brain Neuroplasticity
If boxing isn’t for you, there are many other types of exercises that help to improve brain performance. Studies continue to show that regular aerobic exercise enhances memory, cognitive control, executive function, and attention. As mentioned before, this is because of the increase in neuroplasticity.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a great way to rev up your cognition. HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low-intensity recovery periods. You can use the HIIT concept with almost any type of cardio workout. For example, you can alternate between running and walking. Your high-intensity bursts should range between 30 seconds and three minutes, followed by roughly the same amount of time to recover.
Dancing is another way to strengthen your brain neurons. Several studies have shown that dancing helps to reduce the risk of dementia. A study by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that dancing is associated with a 76 percent reduced risk of dementia among the participants. One of the reasons is that dance, similar to boxing, uses routines you have to memorize and recall from memory to do. This improves your muscle memory and increases your neural connectivity, helping keep communication between your cells healthy and strong.
How to Get Started
Before starting any new type of exercise routine, it’s always a good idea to discuss it with your primary care provider. They can help you determine what your ability and limitations are. You never want to overdo it or push yourself too far.
Once you have the green light, search your local gyms to see what exercise classes they offer. You can also find a local boxing gym and inquire about classes or private lessons. In addition to getting great exercise, you’ll also benefit from the social interaction aspect. So, quite honestly, you have nothing to lose and so much to gain.