Ageing in Reverse- Part 2. Movement for Brain Health

Ageing in Reverse- Part 2. Movement for Brain Health

Ageing in Reverse- Part 2. Movement for Brain Health

Nia - Now I Am - positive affirmations with Sophie Marsh
Nia with Sophie Marsh dance for health

“Much more of the brain is devoted to movement than to language. Language is only a little thing sitting on top of this huge ocean of movement.” ~ Dr Oliver Sacks 

A healthy brain means having the cognitive, emotional and behavioural functioning that you need to navigate life, feel healthy, have meaningful relationships, and realise your full potential. Numerous studies have linked brain health with an improved lifespan, and to feeling happier and healthier.

Last month I wrote about how I’m ageing in reverse and why movement variety is vital for our physical wellbeing. Read it here.

For brain health and mental wellness, exercise is also key, even more so if it incorporates cardiovascular conditioning, mindfulness, music, dance sequences, energy variety, and social engagement! Sound familiar?

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain
Movement that delivers cardio conditioning increases blood flow to the brain, stimulates the growth of brain cells and connections between them, and is associated with larger brain volume.

A 2016 study published in Neurology suggested physical activity can slow brain ageing by as much as 10 years. Another study showed that older adults (over 65) who did high amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity had a 36% lower risk of cognitive impairment, as well as better memory and executive function, than those who did less.

Mood-boosting brain chemicals
Aerobic exercise stimulates the production of serotonin and endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators, while reducing levels of the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. Mindful movement increases dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain which benefits your attention and focus.

Research has long established that regular exercise promotes mental health, and can be more effective than counselling or medication for depression and anxiety.

Connection is key
Our brains love socialising, and we benefit both cognitively and physically from moving with others. Enhancing social connectedness can stimulate neuroplasticity, enlarge hippocampal brain volume (improving memory and overall brain health) and can reduce the risk of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Variety is vital
Fluid intelligence – the ability to solve novel, complex problems – declines steeply during the human ageing process, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Published in The Journal of Neuroscience, a recent study by Cambridge University concluded that “variety of regular physical activities is the most important factor for maintenance of fluid intelligence in older adults.” Interestingly, variety proved more important than frequency or duration of activity.

A 2020 study, looked at 732 people aged 34 to 84 over 10 years. The results identified that across all age groups, having active and engaged lifestyles with diverse and regular activities are essential for our cognitive health.

Your brain on Nia
Every Nia class combines cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility and balance. Nia integrates a wide variety of music genres, movement patterns and sequencing, visualisation and imagination, whole-body listening, creative self-expression, focus and awareness.

Nia brings together movement, mindfulness, connection and joy… the perfect combo for vibrant brain health and mental wellbeing.

Curious to learn more? Check out my blog 7 ways Nia brings variety for body and brain health or sign up for a Nia White Belt training.
warmly, Sophie

Dementia Australia Guide: Physical Activity for Brain Health and Fighting Dementia

Book: Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World by Gretchen Rubin

TED: Why the Brain is Built for Movement by Anders Hansen

Recipes: Top 10 healthy, mood-boosting recipes

Video: The Heart-Brain: Integral Anatomy with Gil Hedley

Leave me a Google review Thank you to those who have left a review about my classes and trainings. If you enjoy Nia, your review can help others find out about it too.

“A brain without a body could not think … the muscles themselves are part and parcel of our higher functions.” ~ Moshe Feldenkrais

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

7 ways Nia’s movement variety benefits your body and brain

7 ways Nia’s movement variety benefits your body and brain

7 ways Nia’s movement variety benefits your body and brain

Nia - Now I Am - positive affirmations with Sophie Marsh
Nia with Sophie Marsh dance for health

“Variety is the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor.” ~ William Cowper 

Variety is the spice of life and the key to longevity! Movement variety is needed for optimal physical functioning and healing. It helps develops attention, creative expression and your sense of self. Here are 7 ways Nia stimulates movement variety for your body and brain health.

1. Listening and moving to different kinds of music makes Nia a total body brain workout. Nia consciously chooses different tempos, genres, and instrumental sounds. Songs with strong rhythm can activate more grounded dynamic movement; songs with meaningful lyrics touch our heart and spirit; songs from different cultures bring out our playfulness and creativity. In Art of Sensation, you learn tools for whole body listening that can help you improve memory, boost creativity, reduce stress and regulate your mood.

2. Nia infuses movement with energy inspired by 9 different movement arts. 3 Martial Arts – Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido – inspire inner calm, agility, and spiral-flow. 3 Dance Arts – Jazz, Modern and Duncan – invite fun, emotional expression and free-spirited movement. 3 Healing Arts – Feldenkrais Method, Alexander Technique, and Yoga – enhance sensory awareness, levity and alignment.

3. Nia activates both intrinsic and large muscle groups for optimal function and balance. “Do it in your body’s way” means Nia is adaptable for every body, regardless of fitness level. As you learn to tune into your own body and explore smaller movements closer to the core as well as bigger ranges of motion, you stop copying the teacher and learn to personalise every class to be nurturing and healing as well as enlivening and conditioning.

4. Nia movement integrates a variety of sensations – flexibility, strength, mobility, stability, agility and stillness for optimal joint, muscle and bone health.

5. Nia uses visualisation and imagery to engage the brain and whole body naturally. Imagine you’re drumming the earth. Imagine a cape wrapping around you. Imagine hugging a tree. Imagine throwing your worries away!

6. Nia encourages emotional expression and sounding to enhance your core strength and release stuck stress and trauma from the body.

Saying YES or NO can feel empowering and help you find your voice. Singing, toning and humming creates vibrations that activate your vagus nerve and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. When you hum or sing a song you associate with calm, happiness or courage, it can activate those feelings for you again!

7. Nia engages all of the senses and brings you into mindful awareness to feel safer, calmer and more in tune with yourself through the body. It teaches you to notice without judgement, and feel to heal.

Moving is your body’s way of artfully expressing the present moment. Focusing your attention on moving centres your mind in your body. Practising movement variety develops body-centred awareness while enhancing motor skills.
~ Nia, Art of Sensation


First, tune in to your body and notice any places that feel heavy or tight.  Take this 3 minute dance break with me and then afterwards, notice what feels better and give gratitude for that. Thank you body!

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead