There is a growing body of research showing that sports like Fencing, i.e. those that requires fast decisions, places high demands on visual attention and requires fast reactions, are good for young and old brains. In a previous blog post, "Is Fencing the Answer to Brain Health?" we reprinted an article from the Washington Post that talks about various studies in this area showing improvement of certain cognitive functions, such as attention and processing, that naturally decline with aging for people who participate in for example, the sport of fencing.
Fencing, like basketball, hockey, football and table tennis are "open motor skills" sports that require fast cognitive and physical reactions. These are different to the "closed motor skill" sports which use a "stable, predictable setting in which the performer typically chooses when to start using the skill and knows exactly what to do. Closed-skill sports, which include biking, bowling, golf and gymnastics, involve self-paced movements."
Elaine always says that 'Fencing is like chess and an intensive physical replica of a computer game in which the mind must race quickly and the body must respond to meet the unforeseen challenges.' This exposure to physical activity, that requires cognitive challenges, is what makes fencing fine tune those brain connections or neural circuits which leads to neural efficiency. What this means is a fencer needs fewer neurons to perform the same quick reflex, cognitive task than the athlete who does the "closed motor skill' sports mentioned above.
Like the story in the WP article, Cheyenne has their own younger version of father and son fencing companions.
Mark in the green shirt above and his son, Jason both fence at Cheyenne. Mark was on the Yale fencing team when he was at college and has not lost that golden touch, he competed in and won a club tournament recently.
Above: Seamus, Isaac, Calob, Ryan, Naomi and Mark.
At Cheyenne we have a number of adults who have chosen fencing as a sport to keep fit and challenge their minds and some of them started when they were older. You may have seen Jo at the club, she started fencing only 6 years ago and came 2nd place in foil and 3rd place in veteran women's epee for Colorado Cup 2015-2016 season.
If you are not convinced about choosing fencing over other sports here are some more reasons to join us on the piste or strip:
Lowest injury rate of all the Olympic sports.
This is an indoor, all-year sport so no worries about rain or sun damage.
You can compete at local or national competitions (or not).
If you are a parent of a fencer you have an opportunity to encourage your child or even compete against them.
You can continue to do fencing all your life and still manage to out-fence the younger ones.
Fencing helps children build neural pathways and so it only make sense that it can help the adult brain too. The research is pointing to the validity of this claim.