Many studies over the past few years have expounded on the value of exercise in terms of mental, cognitive and emotional health. From fending off depression, improving executive function, reducing your risk of dementia and maybe Alzheimer’s, maintaining cardio fitness – and even strength – has been shown effective, not just during the post-workout period but over time…as you age.
But it’s worth asking the opposite question – if exercise helps the brain, does stopping exercise hurt the brain?
Most studies looking at its benefits find increased white matter and neuron connections in long-term exercisers. Even short term studies find increases resulting from a 3 days/wk routine. But along comes a study out of the University of Maryland that found stopping does indeed diminish the blood flow to important parts of our brains in older people who exercise regularly.
After a mere 10 days- that is, 1.5 weeks – sedentariness may initiate unfavorable changes in the brains of middle age and older active people!
To be fair, the study could not state that these changes were permanent or detrimental. But it does get your attention: use it or lose it happens above the neck not just below it.