We have all heard that physical movement benefits not only our physical body and all of its muscles, organs and systems, but it also enhances our brain's alertness, creativity, memory and ability to learn.
Did you know that the TYPE of physical activity that you choose is also important , in your ability to learn, be creative, have a good memory and feel alert? This type of physical activity is called "crossing the midline", and refers to the ability to move a part of the body (hand, arm, foot, leg) over the imaginary middle line that divides your body in two, either horizontally or vertically. An example would be your left hand touching your right foot or right elbow. The more technical term to "crossing the midline" are physical activities that are "cross lateral".
Physical activity that is "cross-lateral" in nature have been shown to have a "dramatic effect on learning" (Byrne, 1999). Since the left hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body, the two sides of the brain are forced to communicate with each other, and this strengthens the nerve-cell pathways that link both sides of the brain.
In fact, crossing the midline is necessary for reading and writing because in order to read and write one must work from one side of the paper to the other fluidly. Isn't that interesting?!
Cross lateral movements can be seen in many sports: soccer, tennis, softball, baseball, golf, as well as in practices such as yoga, pilates, kickboxing and dance. Cross lateral skills are highly technical and refined movements in these sports and practices. Even some basic stretches: opposite knee to elbow, arms raised above and over head, and toe touches, are helpful in crossing the midline and adding balance, coordination and core stability to your workout routine.
I have been noticing that most of my gym aerobic classes include an element of cross lateral training or stretching, and I have also noticed that some people leave the class early during the cool-down stretching part. Next time you are taking a class at the gym, think about the benefits of the cross lateral stretching. If you are a runner or walker, and do not cross train with other activities, you may want to add some cross-lateral training moves into your routine (I've seen some runners/walkers add some "grapevine" side moves for this purpose).
Do you purposefully incorporate cross-lateral moves into your exercise routine or stretching practices?
Byrne, P. (1999). Start Smart: Building Brain Power in the Early Years
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