There is nothing clearer than the fact that regular exercise keeps us strong and healthy. This is especially important into our later years when bone density and muscle mass start to decrease and we are more at risk of falls and injury. Increasing fitness comes with a process of strengthening neural pathways, just as decreasing fitness is a process of forgetting. A neural pathway is when a message gets sent from the brain through the central nervous system to the muscle. When the messages from our brain are clear and fast, we are better at controlling our muscles and have better coordination.

Benefits of clear and fast neural pathways include:

  • Increased strength
  • Increased agility
  • Increased responsiveness
  • Increased speed
  • Increased stability
  • Increased balance

To strengthen the pathways and gain all the benefits above, we must practice. The more we exercise and practice certain movements, the more efficient these signals from the brain become.
Incorrect movement or lack of movement altogether can cause neural pathways to weaken or fade. This causes structural alignment, movement patterns and neuromuscular coordination to alter. Over a period of time this can cause muscular imbalance – certain muscles are favored over others, some are tighter, some are weaker or hardly used and then become dormant. This is all down to the way we use our bodies. For example: sitting for hours at a desk, driving, bad posture or repetitive movement can all cause the strengthening of some, and weakening of other neural pathways. This can cause several issues including repetitive stress, trauma, disease and sedentary lifestyle dysfunction. This can then lead to injury as excess pressure is incorrectly loaded onto certain joints and muscles. Another issue through lack of movement (and age in general) is that connective tissues and muscles can start to stiffen. Lack of range of movement will only promote a greater lack of range of motion. We see this visibly with some older people who struggle to lift their arms overhead. So, in some cases the saying, “use it or lose it” is extremely relevant!