Cross-Lateral Exercises: The Science Behind their Brain Boosting Benefits
Cross-lateral exercises, also known as cross-body exercises, involve coordinating movements between opposite sides of the body, such as tapping the left foot while reaching with the right hand. While these exercises may seem simple, the benefits they offer to brain health are far-reaching and scientifically backed. In this blog post, we’ll explore the science behind cross-lateral exercises and how they can improve cognitive function and overall brain health.
Studies have shown that cross-lateral exercises can improve communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This increased communication has been linked to improvements in a wide range of cognitive functions, including memory, attention, and creativity. In addition, cross-lateral exercises can help improve physical coordination and balance.
One study published in the Journal of Motor Behavior found that just ten minutes of cross-lateral exercise increased brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in executive functions such as decision-making, planning, and working memory. Another study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition found that participants who performed cross-lateral exercises before learning new material showed better retention of the material than those who did not.
I used cross-lateral movements with my daycare children, when I taught ASL and with my Laughter Yoga groups. I did this to help improve memory, and develop health brain connections for people, both young and old. I personally use some cross-lateral exercises during my day, to keep my brain strong and young.
I understand that trying new things, using these kinds of exercise and learn something new (I tend to go for languages) will help keep brains functioning more clearly for longer in our lives. I want to stave off any issues I can, so I try to do these things regularly. (My Duolingo streak at the writing of this is 822 days in a row practicing and learning Russian).
So, how can you incorporate cross-lateral exercises into your daily routine?
Here are some simple exercises to get started:
Cross-crawl march: While standing or sitting, lift your left knee and touch it with your right hand, then lift your right knee and touch it with your left hand. Repeat for one minute.
Cross-body punches: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your left arm across your body, punching with your right arm. Alternate sides for one minute.
Contralateral limb raises: While lying on your back, raise your left arm and right leg at the same time, then lower them and raise your right arm and left leg. Repeat for one minute.
If you’re new to cross-lateral exercises, it’s important to start slowly and work up to more challenging exercises. Remember to always listen to your body and stop if you feel any pain or discomfort.
Incorporating cross-lateral exercises into your daily routine can have a significant impact on your brain health and cognitive function. By improving communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, these exercises can help boost memory, attention, and creativity, while also improving physical coordination and balance. So why not give them a try? Your brain will thank you!
Chu, C. H., & Chen, A. G. (2016). Efficacy of movement-based interventions for children with autism: A review. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 23, 1-14.
Higashiura, T., Umemoto, Y., & Mizuguchi, N. (2017). Effects of whole-body exercise on human brain activity: A preliminary study. Journal of Motor Behavior, 49(3), 277-284.
Manning, L., & Miller, J. (2015). The effects of bilateral and unilateral upper-limb training in individuals with chronic stroke: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases, 24(11), 2565-2573.
Roig, M., Skriver, K., Lundbye-Jensen, J