Stopping exercise for just 10 days can lead to significant decrease in blood flow to several regions of the brain, including the hippocampus, new research has found. “We know that the hippocampus plays an important role in learning and memory and is one of the first brain regions to shrink in people with Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead author of the study J. Carson Smith, Associate Professor at University of Maryland School of Public Health in the US.
It is already known that stopping exercise can result in loss of cardiovascular endurance and the researchers wanted to find out what impact does the cessation of exercise have on our brains. The researchers examined cerebral blood flow in healthy, physically fit older adults (ages 50-80 years) before and after a 10-day period during which they stopped all exercise.
Using MRI brain imaging techniques, they found a significant decrease in blood flow to several brain regions, including the hippocampus, after they stopped their exercise routines. “It is significant that people who stopped exercising for only 10 days showed a decrease in brain blood flow in brain regions that are important for maintaining brain health,” Smith said.
“The take home message is simple — if you do stop exercising for 10 days, just as you will quickly lose your cardiovascular fitness, you will also experience a decrease in blood brain flow,” Smith noted.
The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.