Climb a Tree for Working Memory: Part 2

By Dr. Ross Alloway

If you haven’t yet read part one of the blog, let me give you a little recap: Looking to break out of a rut at the gym a few years ago, I came across a radically different approach to exercise, called Movnat. I noticed that it requires the use of working memory, a key cognitive skill that you use all throughout your daily life. The question is, can such exercises not only use working memory but also improve it? Can certain exercises exercise our brains and our muscles at the same time?

In order to find out if the proprioceptively demanding movements of Movnat improved working memory, we recruited a group of volunteers aged 18-59 and we tested their working memory. This way, we had a baseline of their working memory so we could see any differences after they did the exercises.

Next, we handed over the reigns to a Movnat instructor, who taught our participants a wide range of different natural movements, from the proper way to crawl on the ground, how to climb a tree, walking along the top of a fence, and carrying awkwardly weighted objects.

To get an idea of some of the exercises participants did, have a look at this video:

After the training participants were tested again. While we wondered if we would see any improvement in working memory when we started the experiment, we astonished to find a dramatic increase of 50% from the first time they were tested. That’s right, certain movements can greatly improve how well you can think.

Now, of course, a skeptical reader would suggest that there were other reasons for the improvement. For example, you could speculate they improved because they were learning something new. So, as a control, we —> Read More