SMARTfit Multisensory Fitness – Connecting Brain and Body
Until recently, the physical fitness and physical education industries, in spite of extensive research that says exercise, particularly sensory engaging exercise, is essential for optimal brain health, have been a very small part of this growth. That’s starting to change.
Extensive research summarized in books like Harvard Professor Dr. John Ratey’s “Spark” have outlined the benefits of exercise, particularly cardiovascular, for not just physical health and wellness, but cognitive function as well.
All exercise brings more blood flow to the brain, increases production of key hormones, and to some extent encourages the development of new neural networks, but most of the equipment and programming you see in health clubs, your local Y or JCC, or school PE program have not been designed to specifically and actively engage the senses and the brain. In fact in many cases, they have been designed to do exactly the opposite – disengage the brain by watching TV or offering some other distraction.
While that might make time go by faster, most people find it boring. They do it because they have to. Today, people of all ages and abilities are looking for more – they want fun, engaging exercise that challenges them both physically and mentally.
Enter the new world of interactive multisensory fitness. New technology is leading to fitness equipment and programs specifically designed to engage the brain. The interactive experience also makes fitness more fun, with instant feedback, results tracking and even online competitions. This represents a significant change from the drudgery of walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike, even if you can search the internet while doing so.
SMARTfit multisensory fitness training is also quite different from the virtual fitness exergames most people are familiar with, offering real resistance and impact based full body fitness that engages multiple senses and activates neural connections in ways that virtual activity doesn’t. There’s even group interactive programming, adding social, teamwork and competitive components to the unique, brain-body experience.
“Neurons that fire together wire together”, the axiom that neuropsychologist Donald Webb coined over 60 years ago and later confirmed by Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel, forms the basis for the concept of neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to re-wire itself. To varying degrees, interactive multisensory fitness programs do just that, concurrently triggering and strengthening new brain connections by simultaneously engaging the whole body and multiple senses to improve both mental and physical performance.
The concept of integrating brain fitness with body fitness offers appeal and benefits for a wide range of people and applications – personal and small group fitness training, PE and Adapted PE, sports performance, boomer and senior wellness, sensory processing, Autism Spectrum and other sensory disorders, vision and auditory therapy, physical and occupational therapy, military readiness, early childhood education and more.
With these needs in mind, interactive multisensory brain-body programs are starting to crop up worldwide at health clubs, schools, YMCA’s, JCC’s, Kroc Centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, medical fitness, wellness and rehab facilities, youth fitness facilities, and Park & Rec Centers.