Exercise may not be the only thing that can impact our brains. Lack of exercise may negatively affect the structure of our brains, as well as increase our vulnerability to stress and our risk of poor heart health, according to a recent study published in The Journal of Comparative Neurology.
In the 2014 study, a dozen rats were grouped into two categories: sedentary rats and active rats. Half of the rats were housed in cages with running wheels, and the other half without. After 12 weeks, scientists started to discover notable differences between the two sets of rats’ sympathetic nervous systems—the part of the body that controls blood pressure. Whereas the shape of the neurons in the brains of the active rats remained mostly unchanged, the neurons in the brains of the sedentary rats had sprouted many new tentacle-like branches. Such excess branches are believed to make it easier to overstimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which may lead to an increase in blood pressure as well as contribute to the development of heart disease.
Although this study analyzed rats, researchers think the same results would be seen in humans. What’s most interesting about this study is how it suggests that inactivity can change the structure of our brains, just as activity does. So get up off that couch and move around. It’s essential for your health.
Learn more about brain health and exercise at Crew Blog.
Gina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living. She loves managing the health section, as well as testing beauty products enriched with natural ingredients. Find her on Google+ and Instagram.