>Complex aerobic exercise increases cognitive flexibility and interneuron communication. This is important for executive brain function, which allows the shift of attention and the ability to produce creative problem-solving strategies. Open-water diving takes place in a dynamic environment. Improved cognitive flexibility may allow divers to recognize more quickly any changes in their environment and to come up with novel solutions to adapt to those changes. For a diver, this maximizes dive efficiency by increasing the connections between memories of learning to dive, previous dive experiences and muscle memory. This efficiency allows a diver to respond to a challenging situation more quickly.
>The following complex exercises should be completed in sequence with little rest in between. Your ultimate goal is to maintain an elevated heart rate for at least 30 minutes to achieve optimal cognitive and physical benefits. Start with 10 minutes, and gradually increase the duration as your exercise tolerance builds. Many of these movements have multiple steps, so be patient. The sequences are designed to challenge your coordination, improving visual and motor integration.
- Start with hands at your sides.
- Jump both feet apart, swinging one arm low behind your buttocks and one arm high above your head.
- Jump both legs in, crossing one in front of the other. Reverse arm position.
- Jump both legs out.
- Continue for 30 seconds. Once you have mastered the movement, see how many repetitions you can complete in 30 seconds.
- Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms straight at your sides.
- Step laterally (to the side) as far as you can, and squat down as low as you can. Don't step or squat beyond what's comfortable.
- Simultaneously, bring your arm across your chest. If you are squatting to the right, bring your right arm across your chest.
- Return to starting position, and repeat on the opposite side.
- Start standing with both arms extended above your head.
- Squat down, placing your hands on the floor.
- Step or jump your feet back until you are in plank position.
- Transfer weight onto one hand in side plank position.
- Transfer weight back to plank.
- Jump feet in and stand up, raising arms overhead.
- Repeat on opposite side.
>Jessica Adams and Stephanie Del Tufo are a sibling team actively engaged in research on the body and brain, respectively. Jessica is an assistant professor in the department of physical education at Kean University in Union, N.J. She is co-author of Fit for Scuba, a strength and conditioning handbook and a proud alumna of the DAN internship program. Jessica is also a Health Fitness Specialist certified by the American College of Sports Medicine. Stephanie is a technical research assistant in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She earned her B.A. in neuroscience at Smith College.
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>© Alert Diver — Spring 2011