how to age gracefully in our bodies
David Newton is a Movement Therapist and Longevity Specialist who believes "The most important thing we can do for brain wellness is to move our bodies with focus." May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I wanted to ask him more about his beliefs and the secret sauce that keeps his fitness classes packed week after week. He calls the body the "perfect moving machine," his classes actively nurture the mind-body connection to keep it that way.
E - There is always a mad dash to get a spot in your classes. They resonate with many people and also a full range of ages and abilities.
What sets your classes apart?
D - They're live and in person.
The first thing I do when I walk into a class is dial into the energy in the room. I focus on taking in as much as possible, and that's how I learn about where we need to go and what work we need to do.
Although I draw from the same library of movement patterns, I never teach the same yoga class twice. I switch the spins up every three weeks because exposure to 'the new' causes confusion. Confusion causes us to adapt and evolve our mind-body connection. Combining stress on our skeletal and muscular systems and adding the extra invisible layer of asking the brain to engage makes the classes unique.
And ...there's a lot of work that goes into the preparation. I choose my music because I know it will have a powerful emotional impact without me even saying a word. I also need to ensure I completely understand all of the relevant topics to distill the information and serve it to my classes in a simple, easy- to-digest manner.
E - What would you say your mission is?
D - I vowed to answer people's 'WHY" so that when people are in my classes, they always know why they're doing something and the triggers it's having on their bodies. For instance, which joints a yoga posture will mobilize, how it causes the secretion of synovial fluid - and how synovial fluid acts as joint lubrication and hydration.
It's simple, but I want to remind people that moving our bodies increases metabolism and blood flow (delivery of nutrients and removal of waste). Not only that, exercise and neuroplasticity go hand and hand. I want to introduce movement that lights up the brain - and helps us have better brain function and enhanced cognitive function.
E - You talk about aging gracefully in our bodies. What is the most important thing we can do to achieve that?
D - The rules are simple:
Understand that the mission of our brain is to move our bodies, and that the body is the perfect moving machine.
Take care of our bodies (pre-hab).
Move with focus and connection.
Our bodies are designed to be the perfect moving machine.
So if that's the case, if we are not moving, then we are not fulfilling the primary purpose of the body. It's about understanding that we are not supposed to be sedentary... and that being sedentary actively works against us.
decreased synovial fluid secretion
decreased muscle activity
decreased brain activity
E - What happens to our bodies if we give into our sedentary lifestyles?
D - Our hips have virtually no movement when we sit for extended periods, and the muscles go to sleep. So when we stand up and need to engage our hips, those muscles might take some time to reawaken. The overall stress on the system can cause pain.
But another thing I strive to teach people is how to differentiate between good pain or bad pain. Many clients who feel muscular discomfort misinterpret it as bad pain rather than simply working outside their comfort zone...and they stop moving.
The body is not supposed to be static - so we're either improving our mobility, or we are not.
E - If people are experiencing "good pain" in your classes, how do you address it?
D - I practice a form of what I call "prehab." I'm teaching you how to care for your body so that you won't go into a state of decline, which is why many people ultimately end up in rehab.
As we age, our bodies are less and less tolerant to ignorance and neglect.
We heed the warnings when the car engine light goes on or when the leaves of a plant turn brown, but we tend to ignore messages from our bodies. I am solutions oriented and identify the problems by stripping down the layers and finding the (usually a simple) root. Then, we start building back and moving forward, finding one answer after another.
To age gracefully, we must get to know our bodies better and care for them like we might our cars and houseplants.
E - How do we strengthen and nurture the mind-body connection?
D- The most important thing we can do for brain wellness is move our bodies with focus.
Of course, the brain has multiple functions, but its primary purpose is to move the body. So if you're not moving your body, the brain's primary purpose is not being met. So it doesn't matter how many crossword puzzles you do or how intellectual you are; you are probably, over time, going to go into a state of decline.
E - Based on the popularity of your classes and the buzz they create - clearly, a lot of people have decided they need you in their lives. WHAT ABOUT A DAVID NEWTON BRAND?
D - I feel I am answering my calling when I'm present, reading the energy in the room, dissecting problems, and serving up simple and understandable solutions to help people maintain maximum mobility.
I'm truly motivated by hearing about and seeing transformation in the people I teach, and driven to be the best teacher I can be...I'm not sure this can be done virtually.
We are halfway through Mental Wellness Month, which means there's still plenty of time to take action - who doesn't want to age gracefully in our bodies?
David Newton is a Movement and Longevity Therapist and teaches at in Toronto.
Contact for private sessions: