It is acknowledged that being physically active helps the brain stay young and vibrant, but the benefits of an exercise program on the brain are transient according to two new studies carried out on rats.
In one of the studies, Brazilian researchers compared rats who where allowed to run on running wheels with a sedentary control group. The active rats were injected with a substance that allowed scientists to track how many brain cells were created. After a week, scientists locked the wheels of the active group. The rats were subjected to a memory test that required them to navigate a maze.
According to the New York Times, the scientists’ evaluation revealed the following:
“They found that, after only a week of inactivity, the rats that had run were much faster on the water maze test than the control animals. They also had at least twice as many newborn neurons in the hippocampus.
“But those advantages faded after several more weeks of not running.
In a similar experiment in Canada involving running wheels and other toys over 10 weeks followed by three weeks on no exercise, rats became “the running rats’ brains were almost indistinguishable from those of animals that had never exercised.”
Assuming the results can be extrapolated to humans, the brain benefits of exercise wear off quickly and the positive affects disappear when physical activity is interrupted.
These findings were presented at the 2012 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans.
The bottom line seems to be that a healthy mind and a healthy body work together, and we need both to bolster proper cognitive function.