If you didn’t already know, exercising regularly is incredibly important for good health.
Of course, when most people think of exercising to improve health they imagine grueling work outs that last for hours and leave you sore for days.
Fortunately, even light and moderate exercise is enough to positively affect health. And, a slew of studies have proven hour long exercise might actually be bad for your health.
Still, the verdict is in, exercising to benefit health is one of the best things you could ever do.
What’s surprising is just how important exercise is to total health…even brain health.
While some people manage to exercise every few days, others scatter their workouts throughout the year and never maintain any consistency.
A study conducted by the University of Maryland shows within 10 days of quitting an exercise routine negative effects on health quickly appear.
Their observations show the ability of blood to flow to the brain is severely limited in less than 2 weeks of ceasing to exercise. And the potentially damaging consequences are nothing to scoff at.
Evidence in their study managed to show when otherwise healthy older adults stopped their exercising it limited the flow of blood to the brain severely. The direct result of this physical limitation caused a decrease of blood flow to parts of the brain that are important for thinking, learning, and memory – one such area is the hippocampus.
Though the researchers were unclear how this worked, they reasoned it might have something to do with physical exercise’s ability to help grow new blood vessels and brain cells.
Lead author J. Carson Smith said studies of mice and rats have reliably demonstrated exercise increases the growth of new blood vessels and brain cells. Other studies have shown older people who exercise keeps their hippocampus from shrinking.
That’s why he and his team think exercise withdrawals can damage the hippocampus.
“So, it is significant that people who stopped exercising for only 10 days showed a decrease in blood flow to brain regions that are important for maintaining cognitive health.”
To determine this they studied master athletes (people who had been working out for 29+ years at high intensity) and then did brain scans on them after they quit exercising.
Blood flow did decrease, but they found no sign of cognitive decline.
This led them to make no firm conclusions about the danger of quitting exercise for just 10 days.
However, it is reasonable to assume extended bouts of inactivity will likely harm the brain over time (as the hippocampus would shrink and much less blood would be available for it to use).
As one of the researchers said:
“We know that if you are less physically active, you are more likely to have cognitive problems and dementia as you age. However, we did not find any evidence that cognitive abilities worsened after stopping exercising for just 10 days. But the take home message is simple – if you do stop exercising for 10 days, just as you will quickly lose your cardiovascular fitness, you will also experience a decrease in blood brain flow.”