Math problems and crossword puzzles seem like a logical way to boost your brain but getting up from your chair and using your legs is much preferable. A recent study showed that exercising your legs, especially with weight-bearing exercises, triggers your brain to create new nerve cells. These findings can not only help people boost their brain function but also answer the question, “why losing leg function leads to rapid decline?” and provide insight for improved therapies.
Considered a groundbreaking study that will change neurological medicine, it sheds a light on how vital load-bearing exercises are to brain function. It can help explain the decline seen in patients who lose leg function to multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, spinal muscular atrophy, and other diseases of the nervous system.
The procedure also affects those who are bedridden, astronauts in space who do not have gravity to work against when using their legs, and those who sit all day. The “sitting disease” can raise the risk of many common diseases namely diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
Researchers found that not using your legs changes your body chemistry. It lowers the amount of oxygen in the body and changes the expression of genes involved in cellular growth and regeneration. These changes can drastically decrease the numbers of neural stem cells and therefore the ability to produce new neurons.
Lack of leg function also hinders the function and development of specialized cells that insulate the nerves.
It’s easy to prevent this, you just need to use your legs regularly, especially in weight-bearing activities and exercise regularly. This will help grow new nerve cells.
Without this, your brain function will suffer, and your ability to handle the daily stress and challenges in life will decline. This study just proves why regular exercise helps combat stress, anxiety, and depression.
It also tells us that no matter how much you engage your brain intellectually or artistically, your brain’s health and function depends on regular exercise that incorporates the large leg muscles. A sedentary lifestyle is as damaging as and possibly even worse than smoking.
To back up this claim, the researchers restrict the hind legs of mice for 28 days. The mice went on with their daily routine. It had no troubles in eating and grooming and did not appear stressed. At the end of the study, researchers examined the area of the brain in the mice responsible for maintaining nerve cell health and producing new nerve cells in mammals.
The results showed that the mice who had their hind legs restricted showed 70 percent less stem cell activity compared to the control group of mice who had full use of their hind legs. The study mice also did not have full support or development of the cells that insulate neurons.
Although the research suggested a lot of forms of exercise, going for regular walks can significantly boost your brain health and function if you have a sedentary lifestyle. You can also try squats, leg lifts, lunges, and other simple exercises that strain your leg muscles.
Also, even though any form of exercise is great for the brain, increasing your heart rate through aerobic exercise and high-intensity interval training boosts metabolism, hormones, and chemicals that will boost brain function, and improve and maintain brain health.
However, it is vital to avoid overdoing your exercise or workout routines because it can cause stress and inflammation. Both of these will work against you by sabotaging you hippocampus’ function which causes it to degenerate quicker. This is important because the hippocampus is responsible for learning and memory, and this is the first area of the brain that degenerates if you’re suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.
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