Exercise –> brain health
Exercise cessation –> decreased brain health?
Yes, it’s tempting. It’s cold outside, it gets dark early, and it might even rain. Your day has been long and stressful, and the last thing on your mind is a workout (although that’s the perfect way to unwind and destress). Your couch (and perhaps the beer or nice dinner) is soo tempting; almost hard to resist.
If you exercise regularly you might consider the effect of a missed workout on your fitness goals, muscles or even reduced daily energy expenditure. Yet, only few of us might consider the effect of a missed workout on our brain. Guess what, the effect is HUGE!
More, be aware of the risk that one missed workout might turn into two or three and before you know it you haven’t worked out in a month! Why should you be concerned? Continue reading.
Exercise & Brain Health
Alfini et al. (2016) published a study in which they asked participants which were between the ages of 50 and 80 and who engaged regularly in endurance exercise to turn for 10 days into complete couch potatoes. Keep in mind, these participants were accustomed to a healthy, active lifestyle.
What effect did a 10 day complete sedentary lifestyle have in these participants?
The study was published in Frontier under the title „Hippocampal and Cerebral Blood Flow after Exercise Cessation in Master Athletes„. Brain scans revealed and allowed the authors to conclude that short-term (10 day) exercise cessation was associated with reduced blood flow within eight gray matter regions, including bilateral regions of the hippocampus, meaning in both left and right hippocampus. By the way, this is the region where memory is formed, stored, and retrieved. The authors highlight, „these significant changes were regionally specific, and not the result of global cerebral blood flow changes after the 10-day period of exercise cessation“.
We know, exercise comes with many health benefits. Studies have shown that exercise increases brain health and memory, in large part due to increased blood flow. Or, as Gretchen Reynolds writes in the NY Times:
„Exercise is particularly important for brain health because it appears to ramp up blood flow through the skull not only during the actual activity, but throughout the rest of the day. In past neurological studies, when sedentary people began an exercise program, they soon developed augmented blood flow to their brains, even when they were resting and not running or otherwise moving.“
Exercise & Brain Health
Yet, in order to enjoy the many benefits provided by an active lifestyle, we must remain active. A „sudden“ stop (exercise cessation) affects markers of peripheral metabolic function, as well as brain cortical and hippocampal blood flow. So,
if you want to enjoy the benefits of exercise, keep on moving!
What should you walk away with? In moments you feel tempted to choose your couch (or social engagement) over your workout, think again and consider the effects of your missed workout on your health (including brain health and memory!).
And no, there isn’t such thing as bad weather! Exercising outdoor in all weather is about appropriate clothing.