In this video, Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert discusses his belief about how the brain has evolved. He says, “We have a brain for one reason, and one reason only and that’s to produce adaptable and complex movements.” This may give us an insight into the connection of how our limbic brain controls our involuntary actions, which gives us the ability to create a “Combat Profile.” If this is the case, can we increase our brain’s ability through the use of complex motor functions? Research shows the answer is a resounding, YES.
Exercise and the brain
Studies have shown that when you exercise, your brain produces a protein called, Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). According to Harvard Psychologist Dr. John Ratey, “it acts as Miracle-Gro for the brain.” The details of which are highlighted in his 2005 book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.”
When BDNF is released, it binds to receptors in synapses to increase connectivity. A synapse is the connection between two nerve cells. Nerve Cells, or Neurons, have axons that send information and dendrites that receive information. Nerve cells are messengers of information from your body and brain. To give you a visual of how this works, think of a 400M-relay team. Each runner is a neuron and the baton is the message. As one runner hands off the baton to the next runner he creates a synapse. This is how information is sent through your nervous system. Through exercise and the increase of BDNF it is like replacing your brains old Red-Yellow-White AV Cables with HDMI Cables.
By performing exercises that requires complex motor movements, we are also engaging the parts of the brain associated with movement. In other words, walking is better than sitting, jogging is better than walking, and running will induce the highest BDNF production. Incorporate complex motor movements into your training regime and you have a recipe for increased brain activity.
How should you train?
Your training should complement how you function. For most Law Enforcement Professionals we can assume long periods of rest followed by high intensity work. In the words of my good friends, Coach Jeff Martin of CrossFit Brand X, “You should be fast enough to chase someone down, and strong enough to beat them up”. The same structure would fit with most military personnel, and others in security type of jobs. Functional movements should include picking up heavy things, running fast, and overcoming obstacles. In the old days physical fitness (in the Marine Corps) was how far you could run, and how fast you can complete a 3-mile run. These measures of fitness have proved themselves to be inadequate in today’s battlefield.
Fortunately, there is a fitness program that supports this training model. CrossFit is a fitness movement dedicated to providing this information. CrossFit uses functional fitness performed at high intensity that is constantly varied. This type of training will support our needs of fitness as Combat Profilers. For more information please go to http://www.crossfit.com.