10 On Your Side: Exercises for brain and mental fitness


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Every Fitness Friday, we’ve talked about physical exercise and nutrition, but it’s also important to give your brain a workout!

The question is, how? That’s where the Mind Brain Academy comes in to play.

Doctors Heather Kinchlow and Dawn Lawrence created the academy to share information on what you, as a family, can do to expand your mind and strengthen your memory.

Kinchlow says every day, you have 700 to 1,000 new neurons, but you have to do something to keep them engaged.

“We cannot wait until mental decline happens before we begin to re-circuit the mind. We cannot wait until our students are suffering before we do something and train them how to up-level their thinking,” Kinchlow said.

Kinchlow says now is the time to work together and practice some mental exercises. She suggests something called mid-line writing, which involves penmanship.

“The thing about this penmanship, it’s a little different. Instead of you doing it just on a regular notebook (vertically), you actually turn the page horizontal and you create lines (horizontally).”

Dr. Kinchlow goes on: “I would start writing on the left, and go all the way through. Make sure you don’t make any breaks. I have a star (in the top/middle of the page) because that represents where my nose would be. I sit up straight and tall, and I begin to practice these different symbols or motifs we call them, because it could be a different variety of letters, numbers, or symbols.”

In areas of her writing, she makes letters smaller in some areas and larger in others “just to push the brain to have to interact, to have more interaction with the left and right hemisphere of the brain.”

Once you’ve mastered, that, she recommends you do it backwards and use your left hand to really stimulate those hemispheres of the brain. Another exercise Kinchlow suggests is what she calls “Listen, Repeat and Write.”

“That is when you would just dictate a couple of sentences to yourself, to your student, you read them, you cover them up, and then you write them down holding them in your working memory, short-term, to increase that ability and stimulate that ability so that you’ll be able to increase memory.”

Kinchlow goes on: “For a younger student I might say 3, 2, 1, something like that, I would pause, I would ask them to repeat it, and then they would write it. I would say to another student, ‘Listen to this sentence.’ Something like spiders or majestic engineers, I would pause, ask them to repeat it, and then to write it. You will be able to see the different glitches or the gaps that you have personally or your student.”

Kinchlow suggests doing the exercises four to five times a week for 10 minutes to one hour per day.

She says our minds are ready to grow and expand. We just have to challenge them.

“According to the Harvard School of Business, their institution, we have found out now that every day you can grow new neurons, and the brain you had yesterday is not the same brain that you have today, and so if you are intentional, you can impose upon that brain and develop the mind that you desire to have,” Kinchlow said.

Lawrence shares Kinchlow’s passion for strengthening the brain and increasing memory. She has a number of exercises parents can do to challenge the thinking of their children.

“I recommend that parents take the time to encourage students to think about words that speak about math like ‘how many?’ or ‘What would it be if you had five dozen? How many would that be? If a trio was singing, how many would that be?’ So the mental math is coming in through words like ‘quartet’ or ‘century’ or ‘trio.’ I mean, just having conversations with our children about this helps them to see the math in everyday life,” Lawrence said.

She also encourages parents to work with their students on holding information in their head and then giving it back to them. Lawrence says many times students are so engaged with technology that they rarely build the muscles in their brain to hold information.

“We play a game, kind of like a dictation game around here and we’ll say ‘517 888 Elm Street’ and you can’t write it, but you have to hold it. You hear it. You hold it, and then you get to write it.”

Lawrence says this time of quarantine gives parents a true look at what happens in school.

“Especially during this time, parents get to see up close and personal what teachers are dealing with every single day times 23 times 25 students.”

Lawrence suggests sitting down with your child while you prepare a meal and ask them to play one of the games.

“Now that we have this time, we don’t know for how long. This is a season where you can kind of stretch your kid and build some capacity in them yourself. I believe that parents will buy-in more. If you have not taken the time to invest in your child academically, this is a wake-up call for you, as the parent,” Lawrence said.

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