How movement positively affects the neurodivergent brain
Nelson tells mindbodygreen that these benefits occur through three separate mechanisms. First, there is neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to reorganize and form new connections. The regulation of neurotransmitters then helps us release the right amount of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. Finally, oxygenation results in increased blood and oxygen flow to the brain, supporting focus and concentration.
Although many people with neurodivergence experience problems with sensory processing, certain movement approaches, such as aerobic exercise (running, swimming, and cycling), which increase the heart rate and involve continuous rhythmic movements, as well as coordination-based activities ( such as team sports) that improve motor skills and involve social interaction. Neha Agrawal, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, says that “flexibility—both literally and metaphorically—is critical to healing the trauma that comes from being in a neurodivergent brain. Joint movement and joint breathing sends a signal to the brain that “we are safe.”
Mind-body exercises that combine movement with mindfulness, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques can also be helpful.
Co-founders Christy Childers and Nina Koontz built Core Culture Pilates around the mind-body connection. Kunz, who considers herself neurodivergent, says that in her experience, “there is often a dual problem of overstimulation and understimulation. Pilates involves complex, simultaneous information absorption and problem solving—a multifaceted brain stimulation—that keeps me focused and get pleasure from it.”