All, or almost all of us, we are aware that the phisical exercise is very useful, but few know that to take máximum advantage of it we must be constant. Research in this field suggests that to keep fit and healthy, it would be sufficient approximately 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week.
But, of course, it’s not a good idea to condense the entire exercise in one day, ideally you should do at least half an hour of physical activity three days a week. In fact, if the goal is to get significant changes in the brain it is essential to be constant. However, have you ever wondered what might happen in the brain when you stop exercising? What happens every time that we stop running or abandon the gym? A group of neuroscientists of the University of Maryland has the answer.
Aerobic exercise boosts brain functions
Aerobic activity is highly beneficial for the brain. This type of exercise facilitates neurogenesis, that is to say, the formation of new neurons, which will replace those that die every day, in such a way that neural connections are not excessively deteriorating and we can continue thinking, remembering and put into practice the learned habits.
Of course, these new nerve cells also help establishing new neural connections, that means learning new things. In fact, it has been seen that aerobic exercise increases the formation of glial cells, which exert a support function for neurons and are involved in information processing in the brain.
All this happens mostly because, thanks to physical activity, increases the blood flow to the brain. Researchers at the University of Iowa found that physical activity also stimulates angiogenesis; that is, the formation of new blood vessels starting from pre-existing vessels. Since the brain consumes a lot of oxygen, the fact that has more vessels and increased blood flow, can only be beneficial and enhance cognitive functions.
What happens in the brain when you stop practicing physical activity?
It was found that physical activity not only increases the blood flow during exercise, but this effect is maintained for the rest of the day. Various experiments shown that when people who were sedentary begun exercising, rapidly increased the blood flow to the brain, and this were also maintained at rest.
But the effects of exercise don’t last forever, a study with athletes who spent at least the last 15 years of their lives by training an average of 4 hours per week, shows it. The results were amazing.
This research revealed that after 10 days of inactivity the blood flow decreased in eight different regions of the brain, including the inferior temporal gyrus, which plays a key role in the visual processing, semantic memory and recognition of complex objects, faces and numbers.
Even the inferior parietal lobe, which allows us identify the emotions looking at the faces of people and helps us interpret sensory information, is one of the affected areas. In addition, it was also affected the fusiform gyrus, which is involved in the recognition of words and faces, as well as the hippocampus, which has proved to be the most affected area. Hippocampus plays a key role in memory and is one of the parts of the brain most affected in dementia.
These neuroscientists say these changes were detected after only 10 days of inactivity, then a longer period of time would be disastrous. Therefore, it’s not surprising that a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to a higher risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.
So, now you know it: a moderate, constant physical activity is the best way to keep your brain active.
Alfini, A. J. et. Al. (2016) Hippocampal and Cerebral Blood Flow after Exercise Cessation in Master Athletes. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience; 8:184.
Lee, T. M. et. Al. (2014) Aerobic exercise interacts with neurotrophic factors to predict cognitive functioning in adolescents. PLoS One; 9(6): e99222.
Tomanek, R. J. (1994) Exercise-induced coronary angiogenesis: a review. Med Sci Sports Exerc;26(10): 1245-1251.