Hi, I’m Dr Eric Cobb of Z-Health Performance and today we’re going to talk about toughening up your brain utilizing a specific process called “dual tasking.” One of the reasons we talk about this idea is that in research, we see that many injuries in sports and just basically around the world occur the more fatigue we become. So learning to train your brain for better endurance while performing tasks is an essential idea and if you’re going to look this up in the literature, you can look up something called “dual tasking.” It’s a very very common testing procedure that we do to see if I’m asking someone to walk and then I give them a complicated math problem to solve in their head; does it change how they move and the answer is yes. Now the cool thing is that we can include dual tasking into virtually any exercise and get a brain benefit from it. In other words, we need to train our brains to be able to move and think and figure out solutions to problems all at the same time. This is a trainable skill but it is often something that’s overlooked. Most of us, when we exercise, we’re thinking about the exercise, thinking about the form. In reality, what is now showing up in the research is that if we include cognitive challenges with current exercises often people over time develop better endurance. Their capacity for undergoing challenges improves as well as we’re reducing the impact of fatigue on them as they’re progressing in an activity or sport. And hopefully we’re going to reduce injuries that way and all this sounds pretty crazy. Let me explain, it’s a simple idea but it’s difficult to do.
So the way that we’re going to do this today is, we’re going to look at just either basic mobility exercises or balance exercises. I don’t care what you choose but if you’re going to use something like a mobility drill, you’re going to get into a comfortable stance and you’re going to decide ahead of time. I’m going to go through neck range of motion. I’m going to turn my head left and right, look up look down, go through my diagonals, do some circles. I don’t care what you choose, but you’re going to set your timer for between 30 seconds and one minute. Now as you begin working through your mobility drill, you’re then going to choose a cognitive task to perform as you’re doing the movement. There are a bunch of different versions of cognitive tasking; there are verbal and there are mathematical or calculations. You need to do both because we actually have brain Imaging that shows, hey whenever we do this form of verbal work it impacts these areas of the brain. Whenever we do calculation work, it impacts these areas of the brain so basically the choice of the cognitive task can influence the impact on you overall. So we always recommend that you test and utilize both. For example, if you’re doing a mathematical version you would do something called serial sevens. You begin at 100 and then as you begin moving you begin counting backwards by seven, so 193 etc. And you do that for 30 seconds or to a minute. If that’s too difficult, you can also do serial threes so 100, 97, 94. And again, the goal here is to notice if your movement becomes more tight, more difficult, and over time you should find that you can continue to do the movement smoothly while also performing the mental activity. If you choose a verbal activity, you have a couple different versions of that as well that are well researched. One would be something categorical. So you say, okay I’m going to name as many animals as I can in the next 30 seconds. Go and I start moving and then I’m just listing animal after animal. The other version of this would basically be I’m going to choose a letter and as I’m beginning to do my movement, I’m going to say as many words as I can that begin with that letter and believe it or not these impact different areas of the brain. So these are great ways that you can start incorporating dual tasking into mobility work. As I said, you can do it in balance if you are comfortable doing a minute of push-ups. As you’re doing your push-ups, add in a dual task to it. This is a very interesting concept and I think it’s something that you’re going to see showing up more and more over the next 10 to 15 years in not only your rehabilitation, but also in sports performance. Because what we’re seeing over and over in the research is that when we include these dual task challenges, the long-term benefit of exercise goes up. And we actually see not only the benefit but the performance improvements go up as well. So this is a great thing to add into everything that you’re doing. You will find that it makes you more tired in the beginning, that’s normal. So make sure that you keep your time short and build up your brain endurance along with your bodily endurance as you move forward. Alright, good luck with it, have fun!