Do you remember the first time you started playing a sport or lifted barbell in your life? It probably felt heavy or awkward. But gradually, as you became more regular at it, you found it easier and it didn’t seem like a chore anymore!

Memory in your muscle fibers

As you participate in a new activity, you are training your brains to create a new neural pathway. When the activity is repeated, the pathway gets stronger until the behavior is the new normal.  Hence once you ‘learn’ how to do something physical—whether it is riding a bike, doing squats, weight lifting or playing a sport – it becomes natural to do it without thinking. It feels as if your body remembers how to do it. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “muscle memory”. It is a form of memory in the brain that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition.

However, sometimes life happens and we can get a little off track from our fitness routine. Family commitments, Sickness or random overtime at work can derail us from regularity to non-existent fitness schedules. But even when you try to get back to fitness regime later, you will find it is much easier to get back up to the weights you were lifting before. No matter the choice of exercise – it is definitely easier to put lost muscle back on, than it is to bulk up for the first time.

So how does it all work?

Biologically, the processes that are important for learning and memory of new skills occur mainly in the brain, not in the muscles. The principal brain area responsible for movements – the motor cortex – generates neural impulses which plans, controls and executes voluntary movements.  Hence it is not memory of the muscle but memory of a certain muscle movement in the brain. With repeated practice, these neural connections are strengthened. Gradually all this encoded information of recorded movements are stored for long-term memory in the brain. Tapping this stored memory for repeated action is much easier, with less application of brain. This is when the movement starts to feel natural.

As visibly apparent, muscles also play a significant role in this memory building. Muscle cells split and grow as you workout. When you place a demand on them such as lifting additional weights or walking more than unusual, they grow, as an adaptive response to meet the demand. When you halt your routine for a considerable time, the cells shrink and drop to a smaller size. When you resume workouts, they enlarge again. In fact, skeletal muscle is the most adaptable tissue in the human body!

Even simple everyday actions involve a complex sequence of tensing and relaxing of many different muscles. Since we have practiced these actions repeatedly over our lifetime, these actions are performed faster, more smoothly and accurately because the body’s recall of tangible inner memory. Over time, with continual practice, complicated actions are performed automatically and without thought. This is the habit-forming nature of the brain.

Regular training increases your coordination of different muscle groups, helping you to remember muscle movement patterns, lift heavier weights and re-build strength more quickly.

Too long a break? Or Never exercised as an adult? Start a 10-minute routine today!

Cortex memory does not fade away even if you have been on a break for years. So, gather your willpower and vividly visualize all the running around you joyously did during your younger years and unknowingly built your muscle memories. Visualization will help you find motivation to kick-start your daily physical regime.

If you define exercise as one hour a day, five days a week, and you are already occupied 60 hours per week with work and domestic commitments, then you are obviously thinking that you don’t have time for exercise. But if you change your mindset to consider that even without your realization, your brain is constantly creating muscle memories, one movement at a time, then you will deliberately be on a move throughout the day.

Even a 10-minute basic stretching routine everyday after waking up, will help you future proof your body by slowing the effects of aging.

Explore Dallas Yoga Fest to learn many gentle stretches that Yoga offers for improving general metabolism and also care for the spine for keeping up overall flexibility and mobility of the body.

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