Exercises such as running and jumping have always been seen as a way to improve physical health, but now it seems it might also help with brain health.
Findings From The Leg Exercise Study
Researchers revealed that signals from the leg muscles are important for neurological health. In particular, exercises for the legs can improve the functionality of the brain.
The findings were published in a study on May 23 in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience
"Our study supports the notion that people who are unable to do load-bearing exercises — such as patients who are bed-ridden, or even astronauts on extended travel — not only lose muscle mass, but their body chemistry is altered at the cellular level and even their nervous system is adversely impacted," said study author Dr. Raffaella Adami.
The study concluded that weight-bearing exercises such as weight training, jogging, and climbing produce signals that increase more healthy neural cells for the brain. Weight-bearing exercises work because it forces a person to fight against gravity.
Inversely, a reduction in weight-bearing exercises means that it is challenging for the brain to make these new cells. If the cells are not produced, a person would have a more difficult time handling stressful situations.
"It is no accident that we are meant to be active: to walk, run, crouch to sit, and use our leg muscles to lift things," says Adami.
Prior research showed that people who limit weight-bearing exercises experience a loss of bone mass.
How Did The Researchers Discover This?
Scientists used mice to determine the importance of leg exercises. During a four-week period, they restricted mice from using their hind legs. Despite this restriction, the mice continued to conduct their normal daily routines.
After the experiment, the researchers examined the individual cells in the subventricular zone of the brain. This is where new neural cells are created. The researchers discovered a link between diminished exercise and the creation of these cells. Without the exercise, neural stem cell production decreased by 70 percent. Other types of neurons in the nervous system were also reduced.
The researchers concluded that metabolism changed when exercise was diminished.
What This Means About Exercising Your Legs?
The future implications of this study could alter how the medical community looks at exercising. First, it helps doctors understand how neurological diseases and multiple sclerosis are linked to people who are unable to move their legs.
More importantly, the study can be used to promote the importance of exercising. In the past, exercising has been used as a way to help with cardiovascular and muscle fitness. With this new study, leg exercises can also be touted as a way to improve brain functionality and the central nervous system.