Sep 30, 2008
By: Alvaro Fernandez
We just received this quote of how a major health system is using our Brain Fitness Market Report:
“At Sutter Health Partners we recognize the importance of brain health and how much the health of the brain and the body are interdependent. The market report helped us further target our coaching efforts to integrate brain fitness and upgrade our entire coaching platform. It is easy to read and gives you the industry perspective in a thorough yet concise manner. I highly recommend it!”
— Margaret Sabin, CEO of Sutter Health Partners and VP, New Product Development, at Sutter Health.
You may wonder, “what is the link between wellness coaching and brain fitness”?
In practice, good health and wellness coaches provide excellent brain health advice, given that the areas they focus on (nutrition, physical exercise, stress management) do play an important role in maintaining our brains in top shape.
Additionally, pioneers such as Sutter Health Partners are adding a Brain “lens” to their work. How?
First, by better understanding and explaining the brain benefits of what they already do, in order to provide additional motivation to stick with healthy behaviors. For example, most people will be able to recite multiple benefits of moderate cardiovascular exercise. But how many know that it can also contribute to neurogenesis -the creation of new neurons – in adult brains?
Second, by starting to offer brain fitness guidelines to clients who want too go beyond crossword puzzles and sudoku.
I had a great training session with a number of Sutter Health coaches last week – let me summarize some of the main points we covered.
What is Brain Fitness?
The general state of feeling alert, in control, productive, especially as the result of mental and physical exercise and proper nutrition. Having the mental abilities required to function in society, in our occupations, in our communities. It is not about “IQ”. It is about skills such as attention, memory, emotional self-regulation, planning, managing distractions…
Can Brain Fitness be measured today?
Yes, but, today, only by neuropsychologists and medical professionals. We expect to see cheaper and widely available assessments (perhaps via a 30-40 minute set of online assessments) over the next few years, thanks to the work underway to make quality computer-based assessments available to a growing number of clinicians, insurance companies, sports teams and the military.
What is the research background that explains the emergence of the brain fitness field?
1- New paradigm in brain research: today it is clear that the brain retains a lifelong capacity to change responding to experience (neuroplasticity), paving the way for lifestyle-based interventions.
2- Neuroimaging tools such as fMRI enable, for the first time i history, the scientific exploration of the live brain.
3- The brain has a core set of brain functions-or “mental muscles”. Our vocabulary must expand beyond “memory” and “intelligence” if we are to help move “Use It or Lose It” from theory to practice.
4. Some brain functions improve as we age – others typically decline. And there is major variability among groups of individuals.
5- The four “pillars” of brain health: balanced nutrition, physical exercise, stress management and brain exercise.
6- Cross-training the brain builds up the Brain Reserve.
7. Well-directed mental exercise (meditation, cognitive therapy, software-based programs) can be effective to train specific skills and provide needed mental stimulation.
8. Cognitive assessments will become critical to identify bottlenecks and measure progress.
9. The earlier we start, the better. But it is never too late to start.
10. This is still an emerging field: much more research needs to be done.
One of the top 10 predictions on the brain fitness/ brain training market we included in our our Brain Fitness Market Report said that:
“10. Brain training will be added to corporate wellness and leadership initiatives. Large employers with existing corporate wellness and leadership programs will introduce brain fitness specific programs aimed not only at improved health outcomes but also at increased productivity and cognitive performance in the workplace.”
Coaches will play a major role in helping clients navigate this field, as initiatives such as Sutter Health’s indicate. Stay tuned!