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Neuromotor Exercise Training

Hadyn Luke posted this on Friday 8th of February 2013 Hadyn Luke 08/02/2013

Tags: Training methods

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Our blog this week examines a relatively new form of training: neuromotor exercise training. 

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), an association of sports medicine, exercise science and health and fitness professionals, regularly releases research of importance to personal trainers and other industry workers. 

In 2011 it published a position stand on neuromotor exercise training, explaining what it is and the potential benefits.* This included the following summary:

“A program of regular exercise that includes cardiorespiratory, resistance, flexibility, and neuromotor exercise training beyond activities of daily living to improve and maintain physical fitness and health is essential for most adults.”

Personal trainers who are already recommending aerobic activity, resistance training and flexibility exercises should now additionally consider incorporating neuromotor exercise training into their clients’ fitness programmes. 

What is neuromotor exercise training?

Neuromotor exercise training incorporates a variety of motor skills, including:

  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Gait
  • Agility
  • Proprioceptive training

Exercise classes in disciplines such as tai chi and yoga already use neuromotor exercise training in combination with resistance exercise and flexibility.

How often should this training be undertaken?

As it’s a new area with a lot of variability in the research studies and limited data, there are not yet any definitive recommendations for personal trainers on how often their clients should carry out neuromotor exercise training. However, the position stance does recommend 20 to 30 minute sessions at least two to three days a week. This might be something as simple as agility runs or balancing exercises using steps.

The benefits of neuromotor exercise training

The better your neuromotor conditioning, the more likely you are going to be able to correct yourself should you slip or lose your balance. This is beneficial for preventing falls and injuries at any age, but especially for the older population.

Neuromotor exercise training is also of great benefit to athletes and sports people competing at any level, as improved agility, balance, proprioception and other motor skills can significantly help performance. It can also make training more interesting and challenging.

Indeed a personal trainer will find that all of their clients can benefit from including neuromotor exercises in their gym programmes alongside cardiovascular, resistance and flexibility exercises. 

How to improve balance

A personal trainer can work with their clients to improve their balance by challenging the nervous system’s control of posture and equilibrium. This can be done by:

  • Reducing the body’s support base, for example standing with both feet together or on one leg;
  • Displacing the body’s centre of mass, for example standing on a mini see-saw or stepping over an obstacle;
  • Limiting or removing visual or proprioceptive feedback, for example closing the eyes during an exercise.

Once a client can comfortably carry out the more basic exercises, their personal trainer can progress them on to more complex challenges, as long as the focus remains on the client’s safety.

Click here to see example programme cards/progressions

Fall prevention for older clients

Studies have shown that around a third of people over 65 will be affected by a fall. If a personal trainer is working with older clients, they should recommend that they exercise regularly in order to increase their leg strength and improve their balance to reduce their risk of a fall. Tai chi is particularly recommended.

They should also look at other aspects of their lifestyle including reviewing medication for side effects such as dizziness and having regular eye tests. Homes should be well lit and free from trip hazards, and hand rails should be installed on the stairs and in bathrooms.

* Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for prescribing Exercise.

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