Simply Walking, Good for the Mind

mobilaserA recent article in the Orlando Sentinel focused on Dr. Jay Van Gerpen, a neurologist who specializes in gait.  He’s working with Parkinson’s patients on a study to help them stay on their feet and retain brain health.  Van Gerpen uses a simple tool, a laser device attached to walkers or canes that shoots a red laser beam in front of the person walking.

The theory is that visual cues can help Parkinson’s patients walk without freezing.  A telling sign of Parkinson’s is when gait and movement become imbalanced or halting. When patients focus on stepping over the line, they access the visual part of the brain, which bypasses the motor output area that isn’t working.

The old saying “there are many ways to skin a cat, ” proves true.  The laser provides a work-around.  The end result, a higher level of functionality.  One user stated; “When I wasn’t able to move as much, I noticed my brain was much worse,” Puckett said. “With the laser I can move, get around, and am definitely able to concentrate better.”

Now, regular readers will know I invariably tie these kind of news articles into the practice of Yoga.  Yep, here it is: when we practice moving from one posture into another, we are challenging the neural pathways, as well as stretching our tendons and joints, and maintaining muscle strength and tone.  We work with balance and we move with both symmetry and asymmetry.  As Jason Wallis, owner of Fitness Over Fifty says, “It’s good to keep the body guessing.”

So, as our society has become increasingly sedentary it’s important to remember; simple activity, like walking, is a great offense to maintain health and functional fitness.  Exercise improves or maintains circulation, ie: blood flow, which helps keep our tissues healthy, and keeps our systems active, challenged and in use.  In this example, we use an external tool (the laser) to maintain health when one part of system stops working properly.  Ingenious, really.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Marni Jameson has written several articles on Parkinson’s you can find a sub-category here.  The link to this article has many photos and a short video.  It’s informative and worth the time.

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