10 Days without exercise already impair brain health
A study done by the University School of Public Health of Maryland in the United States, found that stopping physical activity for only 10 days already reduces cerebral blood flow. This decrease may have serious implications for brain health. In the tests, the brain blood flows of healthy and physically active people between the ages of 50 and 80 were analyzed. First, the researchers collected the participants' data in their normal routine. After the tests were redone after 10 days without any type of exercise.
Using brain imaging techniques, tests performed after participants had ceased all physical activity indicated a significant decrease in blood flow in eight regions of the brain including the hippocampus. "We know that the hippocampus plays an important role in learning and memory and is one of the first regions of the brain to shrink in people with Alzheimer's." In rodents, the hippocampus responds to the training exercise by increasing the growth of new blood vessels and new neurons, and in older people, exercise can help prevent the hippocampus from shrinking, "says J. Carson Smith, lead author of the study.
All participants in the study had, at least, 15 years of experience in endurance exercises and participated in competitions recently. The interruption of the exercises involved at least 4 hours of training per week. Participants, on average, ran 59 km per week and had Vo2 (rate of oxygen consumption during physical activity) above 90% of normal for their age.
Test data contribute to growing scientific understanding of the impact of physical activity on cognitive health. "We know that if you are less physically active, you are more likely to have cognitive problems and dementia with age. However, there was no evidence that cognitive abilities worsened after stopping exercise for only 10 days," says Smith .
He still believes that all of this may have important implications for brain health in older people. However, the specialist points to the need for further research to understand how fast these changes occur, what the long-term effects are, and how fast the picture could be reversed with the resumption of physical activity.
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