Time to look inside a Funtensity exercise and see just what makes it so fun and intense to do while providing a bonus boost of brain benefit.
For this exercise, we use the Funtensity Rubber Chicken, a bucket (or two different size buckets) and a cone.
Here’s a video that illustrates the exercise:
How to do it:
- Set-up a bucket or two (put the smaller bucket in the larger one). (In the video, I use a Step360 turned upside down for the larger bucket
- Two players start behind the cone on either side of it
- Using on their foot or feet, they toss the chicken toward the bucket(s)
- Each player retrieves their own chicken, returns to the start position and throws again
- Award one point for getting the chicken in the larger bucket, and 2-3 points for the smaller bucket.
- The winner is the person with the highest score after all sets are completed. (Alternatively, you could use each set as a separate game and restart the score for each set.)
After the first few times I used this exercise, I recognized the need to increase the incentive to move faster to retrieve the chicken so I added the following:
- The player with the highest number of attempts on each set is awarded two bonus points on each set.
What’s Going on When You Do It?
You are of course explosively throwing your chicken with your feet toward the buckets, running to get the chicken wherever it landed, and running back to the start position. This brings the elements of reactivity and coordination that are essential to all Funtensity exercises. But mentally, you’re keeping track of your own score while simultaneously counting your number of attempts.
This is often more challenging than people think it will be and I sometimes hear “I lost count,” or “I forgot to count.” Can’t win the bonus points then! Have to make the effort to count to get the reward.
Obviously, this exercise features the other two essential Funtensity exercise elements: partner interactivity and friendly (no swatting your opponent’s chicken out of the air) competition.
Why It’s Great for the Brain
Your cognitive challenge is to keep track of your score and number of throws. Your physical challenge is the jumping, running, lunging/squatting to pick up your chicken, and running back to the start.
This combination of thinking and moving simultaneously is often referred to as “effortful learning” or “dual-tasking” in research and it amplifies the brain benefits of exercise.
It enhances the amount of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a protein that helps protect the brain from the inflammation and mitochondrial DNA damage that are currently thought to be the main cause of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
It enhances blood flow to the brain and makes more new nerves. The physical activity makes new nerves (if the movement is novel or unfamiliar), and the mental effort helps integrate them into your brain’s neural network.
Funtensify Your Exercises
Not to spoil the fun or anything, but it is worthwhile to stop and consider the little things that go into making exercise more beneficial than it appears to be on the surface. Science doesn’t spoil the fun, but enhances it. It helps you understand the principle behind something so you can look for even more ways to explore and express the principle.