Experts point to five types of aging that can help us understand the concept of neuroplasticity:
- Chronological age is the most basic: It’s the number of years we’ve been alive. We cannot change or train chronological age—but we can influence the other four varieties of age.
- Functional age represents our ability to accomplish the activities of daily life that we need and want to do, based on our demographic and our culture. Functional age training simply helps clients get better at performing these tasks.
- Biological age is how we compare with others who share our demographic and chronological age. Biological age training can address physiological issues, with goals such as reversing the effects of diabetes or reducing cholesterol or blood sugar levels.
- Social age is our ability to interact successfully with those in our cultural framework. Social age training involves working in small groups to accomplish task-dependent projects.
- Psychological age is our ability to use the brain’s major functions to accomplish tasks that demonstrate independence and self-efficacy. Psychological age training adds neuroplasticity exercises that put various functions and sections of the brain to work (Bryant 2014).
The Two Sides of the Brain
When choosing exercises for functional, biological, social or psychological aging, we need to consider the major brain functions and the sections of the brain that control them:
- Left. The left side of the brain mostly controls speech, language, math, analytical skills, memories of names and words, and motor skills of the right side of the body.
- Right The right side of the brain controls mostly creative skills (including problem solving), emotions, memories of images like faces, spatial zones and patterns of details, and motor skills of the left side of the body (Howard 2014).
To read about how neuroplasticity combines physical and mental exercises to strengthen brain power, please see “Fight Aging With Brain Training” in the online IDEA Library or in the March 2016 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.
Bryant, C.X., et al. 2014. ACE Senior Fitness Manual (1st ed). San Diego: American Council on Exercise. Baddeley, A. 2003. Working memory: Looking back and looking forward. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 4 (10), 829-39.
Howard, P.J. 2014. The Owner’s Manual for the Brain (4th ed.). Austin, TX: Bard Press.