Brief Hiatus from Exercise Diminishes Brain Benefits, Study Finds.


**This is a synopsis of an article from The New York Times

A new study conducted by researchers from the department of kinesiology at the University of Maryland in College Park (published in August in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience), asked a group of competitive master runners (men and women) between the ages of 50 and 80, to abruptly stop running and exercising for 10 days. The group of older adults had been running for at least 15 years, averaging 35 miles or more per week. 

“We wanted to study longtime, serious endurance athletes because they would be expected to have a very high baseline level of aerobic fitness and established habits of frequent exercise,” said J. Carson Smith, an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Maryland and senior author of the study.

At the beginning of the experiment, the participants’ cognitive skills were tested. They each had an M.R.I. that tracked how much blood was flowing to different parts of their brain. The researchers were especially interested in blood flow to the hippocampus (responsible for memory function). 

Over the years, studies using animals and people show that exercising can lead to the creation of new neurons, blood vessels, synapses and increased volume in parts of the brain that control memory and higher-level thinking. Scientists believe that this increased blood flow to the brain is the catalyst of exercise’s cognitive benefits. But, how long do these brain benefits last? 

After 10 days of being sedentary, the participants were retested and scanned. The results were striking: there was significant decrease in blood flow to both lobes of the hippocampus, however, the participants did not perform “noticeably” worse on the cognitive tests. 

The researchers do not know if the effects on sedentary behavior would be as severe among moderate to light exercisers who quit for 10 days. 

Dr. Smith says there is more research to be done, but the research results offer a strong message: to keep your brain healthy, keep exercising. 

Read the full article here

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