BY ALEX HUTCHINSON
“We’ve come to view fitness as a collection of discrete traits — muscular strength, aerobic endurance, flexibility and so on — that can be isolated, measured and tinkered with independently. The pitfall of that approach is obvious: What is strength or endurance worth without the balance and stability to use them in the real world?
Simply staying upright is, in some ways, a full-body exercise. You have fluid-filled “organs of balance” in your inner ear that monitor the position and rotation of your head; and there are sensors known as proprioceptors in muscles and tendons throughout your body that detect subtle stretches and deformations. Your feet alone contain 11 small stretch-sensing muscles: No matter how many calf raises you do in the gym, your balance won’t be stable unless your brain is attuned to the signals from these sensors. Even wearing socks interferes with this subtle feedback and worsens your balance.
An emerging body of research suggests that exercising in a way that taxes your coordination, agility and balance — a suite of abilities known as “gross motor skills” — rewires your brain in ways that are fundamentally different from straightforward aerobic activity or strength training. By improving these physical attributes, you also enhance cognitive performance.”