Can trained legs have a positive impact on the brain?
The regular movement of the legs, especially when under weight, is necessary for the production of healthy nerve cells, which are essential for the brain and the nervous system. In other words, if your legs get enough exercise, your brain will benefit.
In their current study, the scientists from the Universita degli Studi di Milano in Italy found that neurological health depends heavily on the signals that are sent from the large leg muscles of the body to the brain or from the brain to the muscles in the legs. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Frontiers in Neuroscience".
Restricted movement also affects the brain
The study provides new clues as to why many patients with motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy and other neurological disorders quickly lose cognitive performance when their movement is restricted, the experts explain.
Doesn't movement lead to changes at the cellular level?
The results of the study support the notion that people who do not experience physical stress, such as bedridden patients or astronauts on long journeys, not only lose muscle mass, but also show changes in their body chemistry at the cellular level and even impair their nervous system Study author Raffaella Adami from the Università degli Studi di Milano.
In the experiment, mice were only allowed to use the front legs
In the study, mice were forced to use only their front legs for 28 days. The mice continued to eat and groomed normally and showed no signs of stress, the scientists say. At the end of the experiment, the researchers examined an area of the brain called the subventricular zone that is responsible for maintaining the health of nerve cells in many mammals. This is also the area in which neural stem cells produce new neurons, the authors explain.
Little exercise resulted in stem cell reduction
Limiting physical activity reduced the number of neural stem cells by 70 percent compared to a control group of mice that were allowed to move freely. Both the neurons and the so-called oligodendrocytes, specialized cells that support and isolate nerve cells, do not fully mature, if the training and movement of the legs is severely restricted, the researchers report.
Without leg training, it is difficult for the body to produce nerve cells
The results of the study show that the use of the legs, especially during physical exertion, sends signals to the brain that stimulate the production of healthy nerve cells. The researchers emphasize that these nerve cells are essential for the brain and nervous system. Limiting leg training makes it difficult for the body to produce new nerve cells. But we need these nerve cells to deal better with stress.
Reduced exercise even affects genes
Adami explains that neurological health is not a one-way street in which only the brain acts on the muscles. Restricted leg movement reduces the amount of oxygen in the body. This changes the metabolism and creates a so-called anaerobic environment. Movement reduction also appears to affect two genes. One of these genes is called CDK5Rap1. This gene is very important for the health of the so-called mitochondria, the cellular power plants that release energy that the body can then use. (as)