Some new research was released showing that using our legs - particularly weight-bearing exercise - sends signals to the brain that are vital to producing healthy neural cells.
This is a ground-breaking study that has shaken brain and nervous system medicine to the core.
Related - Only Leg Day Workout You'll Need
This is giving doctors new clues as to why patients with a motor neuron disease often rapidly decline when movement becomes limited. Some of these include multiple sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy.
This is big.
What Are Neural Cells?
Neural stem cells are self-renewing multipotent cells that generate the neurons and glia of the nervous system of all animals during embryonic development. Some neural stem cells live in the adult vertebrate brain and continue to produce throughout life.
Stem cells are pretty cool because they can basically turn into different cell types. Undergoing symmetric or asymmetric cell division, the stem cell turns into two daughter cells.
Through symmetric cell division, both of the daughter cells are also stem cells. Asymmetric cell division creates one stem cell and one specialized cell.
So What Does This Mean?
Basically, this study is supporting the notion that people who are unable to do load-bearing exercises lose muscle mass and their body chemistry is altered at the cellular level.
Those who are bedridden, astronauts, or those on extended travel are all at risk for this.
The study restricted mice from using their hind legs over a 28 day period. During the trial, the mice ate and groomed normally - with no signs of stress.
At the end of the trial, the researchers took a look at an area of the brain called the subventricular zone. This is the area where neural stem cells produce new neurons.
They found that limiting physical activity actually decreased the number of neural stem cells by 70 percent compared to the control group of mice that were allowed to roam.
They found using their legs during weight-bearing exercise were sending signals to the brain. These signals are vital for producing the healthy neural cells.
This means that cutting back on exercise is making it more difficult for our bodies to produce new nerve cells. You know, the basic building blocks that allow us to handle stress and adapting to challenges.
Dr. Raffaella Adami is from the Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy.
"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. "Neurological health is not a one-way street with the brain telling the muscles 'lift,' 'walk,' and so on."
Researchers also analyzed individual cells and found that restricting exercise lowers the amount of oxygen in your body. This creates an anaerobic environment and alters your metabolism.
There are two genes that seem to be the most impacted by restricting exercise. One gene is the CDK5Rap1. It is extremely important for the health of mitochondria - the cellular powerhouse that releases the energy the body can use.
The results of this study is shedding light on many important health issues, ranging from cardiovascular impact as a result of sedentary lifestyles, to insight into devastating diseases; spinal muscular atrophy, multiple sclerosis, and motor neuron disease to name a few.
Best Exercises for Brain and Nervous System Health
Any Aerobic Exercise
Anything that gets your heart pumping is great. Any aerobic exercise will give your brain a boost. Aerobic exercise repairs damaged cells, improves brain function, and releases the "feel good" chemical dopamine. Strive for 120 minutes total each week of moderate aerobic exercise. It's really not that much.
Yoga and Meditation
While this doesn't seem like a normal choice, meditation is a great way to relieve stress and quiet your mind. The brain will function better, you'll be more flexible, and you'll be a happier version of yourself.
The easiest way to exercise, walking greatly improves brain power.
People who regularly go for a walk experience improvement in all areas of their brain. It seems like your brain can communicate better. This is due to enhanced neural connectivity from regular walks.
Jogging or Running
Running or jogging at the start of the day unlocks your brain to some laser focus and improved energy levels. Going for a quick run gives you a rush of serotonin that will instantly boost your mind. Something as little as 15 minutes can get you through a few hours of hard work without getting distracted.
Take a friend and go have some fun.
Group classes tell you what to do and you can be around a group of people that want the same thing as you - to get in shape.
The constant adjustments to new workout routines are great for keeping your brain active.