It is widely known the effect that exercise has on the brain, including increased cognitive function, improved memory and learning. We know the effects that stopping exercise has on the body, such as increased fat mass, decrease muscle mass, muscle strength and bone mineral density. One question that hasn't been explored yet- what happens to our brains when we stop exercising?
Research from the University of Maryland in the U.S wanted to answer this question. They took 12 master athletes aged 60 to 80 who were running at least 35 miles per week (approximately 56km) and asked them to stop exercising for 10 days. MRI scans of the brain and cognition tests were undertaken both pre and post experiment. They found that cognitive function hadn't changed, but they found that there was less blood flow around the brain, in particular the hippocampus.(memory storage in the brain) Though this doesn't say that they had decreased cognitive function, but long term the effects of no exercise on the brain could potentially lead to further issues.
It is known that exercise is a powerful contributor to the decreased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease, with exercise promoting the growth of new brain cells and improved circulation of blood to the brain. This research could be one of the first looking at the effect of sedentary lifestyle has on the brain.
The researchers tip? Keep exercising.
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