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Lynn Steffes: Let’s better integrate physical therapy and cognitive fitness

Lynn Steffes, PT, DPT

Lynn Steffes, PT, DPT

What excites you the most about your job?
Thanks to the reha­bil­i­ta­tion con­sult­ing ser­vice I run, I have the amaz­ing oppor­tu­nity to work with phys­i­cal reha­bil­i­ta­tion prac­tices and asso­ci­a­tions across the coun­try on pro­gram devel­op­ment, mar­ket­ing & busi­ness oper­a­tions. Pro­fes­sion­als in the rehab field are pas­sion­ate about keep­ing our pop­u­la­tion active, inde­pen­dent and enjoy­ing opti­mal qual­ity of life, and that is why bring­ing pro­grams that address brain health and well­ness excites me!

Please tell us about your inter­est in applied brain sci­ence. What areas are you most inter­ested in? What moti­vated you to pur­sue work in your field?
I have both per­sonal & pro­fes­sional rea­sons. On a per­sonal note, my Mom passed away after 7 years of decline due to Alzheimer’s Dis­ease, and my father is cur­rently in a VA Mem­ory Care facil­ity with a diag­no­sis of vas­cu­lar demen­tia. Their jour­ney has been my jour­ney. The cost to the entire fam­ily is astro­nom­i­cal both emo­tion­ally and finan­cially! Any­thing we can do to pre­vent, slow or mit­i­gate the effects of cog­ni­tive decline is of incred­i­ble value.

As a rehab pro­fes­sional, I have wit­nessed the amaz­ing abil­ity we have to enhance the phys­i­cal per­for­mance of nor­mal indi­vid­u­als via sports med­i­cine, to pre­vent injuries in active aging adults, and to reha­bil­i­tate indi­vid­u­als with deficits towards fairly high lev­els of func­tion. I now believe we have the oppor­tu­nity to do the same in brain health! There is an oppor­tu­nity to build brain per­for­mance enhance­ment pro­grams for those who wish to per­form at a higher level cog­ni­tively, and also a des­per­ate need to build strong pre­ven­ta­tive, well­ness and reha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams for those con­cerned about a decline in their clients and/or patients.

It is evi­dent from the lit­er­a­ture that there exists a very strong body-brain con­nec­tion. It is my hope to aug­ment the skills of reha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­fes­sion­als to add other cog­ni­tive fit­ness assess­ments and inter­ven­tions and build a multi-modal approach to brain fit­ness for ALL populations.

What is one impor­tant thing you are work­ing on now and where can peo­ple learn more about it?
We are work­ing with a bio­chemist & a neu­ro­sci­en­tist on a Mind-Body pro­gram that applies a multi-modal approach to cog­ni­tive fit­ness.  We will be pre­sent­ing our ini­tial plan at the Amer­i­can Phys­i­cal Ther­apy Assn – Pri­vate Prac­tice Sec­tion  con­fer­ence in New Orleans in Novem­ber of this year.

What are 1–2 key things you’d like every per­son to under­stand regard­ing his/ her own brain and mind that you think is com­monly mis­rep­re­sented or not addressed in the pop­u­lar media?
Pri­mar­ily, that phys­i­cal exer­cise, if per­formed at a level and inten­sity sup­ported by evi­dence, can not only ben­e­fit our bod­ies but also our minds.

Where do you see clear “low-hanging fruit” to enhance behav­ioral and brain health based on neu­ro­science and inno­va­tion?
I see “low hang­ing fruit” in the appli­ca­tion of multi-modal brain fit­ness pro­grams super­vised by cur­rent health & fit­ness providers in order to tar­get mul­ti­ple high risk populations.

Finally, what do YOU do to stay sharp?
Exer­cise daily, take group fit­ness classes that are chal­leng­ing, take sup­ple­ments, read vora­ciously, teach at the uni­ver­sity level, sleep soundly & con­sciously work to man­age stress.

2013 SharpBrains SummitThis con­ver­sa­tion is part of a new inter­view series with Speak­ers and Par­tic­i­pants in the upcom­ing 2013 Sharp­Brains Vir­tual Sum­mit (Sep­tem­ber 19-20th). You can reg­is­ter with a 20% dis­count using pro­mo­tional code: sharp2020

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