If it has been 10 days or more since you last got physically active you are putting your brain at significant risk.
A study led by the University of Maryland and published in the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience journal has found that physically fit, healthy older adults who stop exercising for 10 days showed signs of significant decreases in blood flow to parts of the brain that are important for thinking, learning and memory.
The researchers have found evidence that endurance exercise training can improve your cerebrovascular health and have a positive effect on the hippocampus.
However, lead author J Carson Smith says that the study of mice and rats showed exercise increased growth of new blood vessels and brain cells. It also showed that exercise can protect your hippocampus from shrinking.
“It is significant that people who stopped exercising for only 10 days showed a decrease in blood flow to brain regions that are important for maintaining cognitive health,” Smith says.
The study also involved healthy, physically fit adults with an average age of 61 years and the team measured brain blood flow both before and after a 10-day period during which they stopped all exercise.
The team found significant reductions in brain blood flow in eight of the brain regions. In addition to the hippocampus, which is said to store your time and place memories, other regions included parts of the brain structure that is known to deteriorate quickly in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
It should be noted that those participating in the study scored high for their age on aerobic fitness and were said to be from a “unique population and should not be considered equivalent to older adults who engage in regular moderate to vigorous intensity leisure-time physical activity”.