This may come as a surprise, but adding nondominant hand exercises to your routine may improve brain function and make your life easier. If you ever get injured and become unable to use your "good" hand, you may still use the other hand for everyday tasks. All it takes is a little practice.
Boost Your Brain Power
Have you ever tried using a mouse with the nondominant hand? As it turns out, using your nondominant hand may cause positive changes in brain function.
A small study published in the December 2019 issue of Scientific Reports has found that subjects who used their left hand to eat with chopsticks experienced major improvements in the speed and smoothness of elbow-joint motion as well as an increase in bilateral dorsolateral premotor cortex (dPMC) activity, which is responsible for motor control and other functions. These changes occurred in as few as six weeks.
Furthermore, training your nondominant hand may improve the precision and quality of your writing, reports another small study featured in Neuropsychologia in July 2017. As the researchers note, it takes just 200 minutes of practice, or about 10 days of training, to gain better control over your nondominant hand. In fact, you can start right now — it's easier than you think!
Read more: 8 Ways to Keep Your Brain Sharp as You Age
Nondominant Hand Exercises
From a sharper brain to improved motor skills, there are plenty of reasons to start using your nondominant hand. Regular practice is the key. As mentioned earlier, it takes about 10 days to get used to it.
The Alzheimer's and Dementia Resource Center states that nondominant hand exercises, such as brushing your teeth with your left hand, may improve brain fitness by challenging your mind. Do the same when tying your shoes, flossing or snacking. These small things may help strengthen the nondominant hand and keep your brain sharp.
The experts at Concorde Career Colleges recommend a few simple ways to strengthen the nondominant hand. Here are some strategies you can try right now:
- Write your name and draw straight lines or circles with your left hand.
- Use your nondominant hand for daily tasks like brushing your hair or applying makeup.
- Try buttering your toast, turning on the water or using the mouse with your nondominant hand.
- Practice your handwriting daily.
As you progress, you may try to cut vegetables or shave using your left hand. Don't do it right from the start as you might end up with an injury.
According to the University of Florida, writing with the nondominant hand is an awareness activity. Researchers recommend practicing your handwriting with the left-hand for 15 to 30 minutes a day. Focus on how it makes you feel and what you had to do differently to accomplish this task. Such exercises can help you prepare for the unknown and make it easier to adjust to new environments.
Factors That Influence Handedness
Handedness begins to develop before birth, and therefore, it's largely determined by genetics, explains the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Few people can use both hands equally well. It's estimated that approximately 40 genes determine your ability to use one hand better than the other.
Some people develop their preferences later in life, according to an April 2014 review published in Frontiers for Young Minds. In general, the brain hemispheres tend to be less distinct in left-handers than in right-handers. These changes in brain structure between left- and right-handers may influence their thinking patterns.
Other factors, such as a child's sex and the changes occurring in the womb, may affect handedness too. Babies who are breastfed are more likely to become right-handed, states a January 2019 large-scale study featured in Scientific Reports. Furthermore, some individuals are forced to become left-handed after losing their right hand due to an injury or illness.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Is Handedness Determined by Genetics?"
- Frontiers for Young Minds: "Your Left-Handed Brain"
- Victoria Department of Health & Human Services: "Left-Handedness"
- Scientific Reports: "A Large-Scale Population Study of Early Life Factors Influencing Left-Handedness"
- Scientific Reports: "Acquisition of Chopstick-Operation Skills With the Non-Dominant Hand and Concomitant Changes in Brain Activity"
- Neuropsychologia: "Increased Functional Connectivity Between Cortical Hand Areas and Praxis Network Associated With Training-Related Improvements in Non-Dominant Hand Precision Drawing"
- Alzheimer's and Dementia Resource Center: "FAQ - Alzheimer's and Dementia"
- Concorde Career Colleges: "How to Become Ambidextrous"
- University of Florida: "Non-Dominant Hand Exercise"