Maximizing Physical and Neurological Potential

Maximizing Physical and Neurological Potential: How Fit By KP Combines Personal Training and Functional Neurology to Create Optimal Health in Her Clients
We are all familiar with the benefits of exercise. Health experts, fitness enthusiasts, and doctors alike all tout the benefits of physical activity on the body. However, who is discussing the remarkable benefits that exercise has on the brain?

That is where I come in. I have been a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine for 4 years and earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. So I know movement, exercise, and health pretty darn well. However, my eyes were truly opened to the incredible impact that physical activity has on the brain when I worked in a few functional neurology offices and got to witness first-hand how helpful physical activity is to the brain. Now, bridging the gap between exercise and brain health is my mission as a trainer.
Many patients no longer need services from their functional neurologists, but they aren’t quite ready to be without guidance when it comes to physical activity. They are feeling better, but not back to their normal selves yet. They are still regaining function, strength, and integrating back into the world at large. With my background in movement, health sciences, and brain-based training, I help guide people back into the world of strength, conditioning, and physical activity. The purpose is not just to get into the best physical shape of your life. The purpose is to utilize exercise and physical activity in a way that continues to heal and strengthen your brain, all the while gaining physical freedom back.

What Does Exercise Do To The Brain?

There is plenty of research supporting the important role that exercise plays in brain health. If we start with the lowest hanging fruit, exercise benefits brain health simply by increasing oxygen delivery to the brain. When you exercise, the blood flow throughout your whole body increases. Oxygen is brain food. The brain loves oxygen. So increasing oxygen delivery to the brain is a surefire way of increasing the brain’s ability to function optimally. Specifically, blood flow increases to the prefrontal cortex (which is in charge of executive function, cognitive tasks, and mood), the cerebellum (which coordinates motor tasks), and the temporal lobes (which help with memory).

Exercise also elicits a change in the brain’s communication system. The brain communicates by sending messages along nerve cells called neurons. These neurons receive messages through branch-like structures called dendrites, and they send messages through another structure called a synapse. The amazing thing about exercise is that it actually increases the brain’s synaptic and dendritic networks. When there are more dendrites and synaptic connections available, the brain is able to communicate much more effectively and efficiently. Since the brain is in charge of relaying directions to the entire body, stellar communication networks are imperative.
 
Another phenomenal benefit of exercise on the brain is the release of certain neurotransmitters and neurotrophins, with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) being of particular importance. BDNF helps neurons grow, build, and maintain good health. Healthy neurons are vital for optimal brain performance. Endorphins are also released during exercise, which give the feeling of reward/achievement during and after a workout.
 
Finally, physical activity that challenges balance and coordination helps train the brain’s proprioception. Proprioception can be thought of as understanding where you are in relation to your environment. The muscles, tendons, ligaments, and skin all send information directly into your brain to give feedback as to where you are in space, and how you should respond to best adapt to the space you are in. When proprioception is off, it can cause a slew of issues from compensatory motor patterns to chronic pain to increased risk of falling. Certain forms of exercise that train this proprioceptive system can help make this system work much more efficiently and dramatically improve brain and body health.
 
In summary, exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, it helps grow and maintain the brain’s communication networks, it increases certain functions like memory, cognition, and coordination, and it helps release vital neurotrophins/neurotransmitters for optimal brain health and performance.
 
How I Utilize This Information in Training

It’s great to know this information, but how to utilize it effectively is a whole different story. What is the purpose of knowing this information if you can’t apply it, right?

That is why I have built my training around these principles of brain health. I specifically design programs to utilize different forms of exercise and movement to elicit different neurological adaptations and create an optimally functioning body and brain. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, an optimally functioning brain is imperative for an optimally functioning body. The brain is the captain that tells the muscles what to do. When the brain and body are not synchronized, compensations occur, injuries become more likely, and chronic pain can arise. However, when the brain and the body communicate strongly with one another, general fitness, health, and longevity all improve.

Why My Approach is Different

My approach to taking full advantage of the impact of exercise on the brain combines cardiovascular exercise, interval training, strength work, complex movement patterns, and balance/coordination work in a way that makes the most sense for each individual. You may have heard the term “functional training” or “functional movement” thrown around before as those phrases are hot buzzwords in the fitness industry. My version of functional training is finding out how to capitalize on neurological principles to make a training program that will help get each person to his or her goals. Everyone has a different starting point. Fitness is not one size fits all. My job is to determine that starting point and progressively bring you to the health, fitness, and strength goals that you want to achieve.
 
Another vitally important aspect of what I offer is the knowledge to understand when to push and when to stop. Any client that comes my way that is post-neurological rehab gets very specialized attention from me to assure that you are not pushing too hard for what your brain and body are capable of. Many trainers have a “no pain, no gain” approach to exercise. While this works in certain contexts, post-neurological rehab is not a setting to push past the limit. I learn your fatigue points and triggers so that I know when to tell you to keep executing a movement and when we need to slow down and call it for the day. This is a very specialized skill that not many trainers have the background or training in, but is absolutely crucial to anyone working with neurological conditions.
My passion for understanding the connection between the brain and body runs deep. I absolutely love the work I do and I achieve outstanding results with my clients. My whole training philosophy is based around making fitness fit into your lifestyle, in a way that benefits you, and in a way that capitalizes on what we know about the human body to make your journey as efficient and effective as possible. And you may find yourself having quite a bit of fun along the way!

For any and all business inquires, you can reach out to me directly at fitbykp@gmail.com, or you can speak with your healthcare professional first to determine if you are ready for my services.
 

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