You’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. Research shows that prolonged sitting can lead to an early death.
A new study now indicates that our legs also play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy brain and nervous system. A recent study shows that using your leg muscles sends signals to the brain that are vital for the production of healthy neural cells.
The study suggests that load-bearing leg exercises (weight/resistance training) in particular play an important role in the production of new nerve cells. On the other hand, cutting back on exercise decreases this production.
During the study, mice were restricted from using their hind legs (but not their front legs) for 28 days. This resulted in a 70 percent decrease in the number of neural stem cells compared to the control group, which was allowed to roam freely.
Besides that, both neurons and oligodendrocytes (specialized cells that support and insulate nerve cells) didn’t fully mature when exercise was severely reduced.
This research is providing doctors with new clues as to why patients with motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases often rapidly decline when their movement becomes limited.
It may explain why people who are unable to do load-bearing exercises not only lose muscle mass, but also their nervous system is adversely impacted and their body chemistry is altered at the cellular level.
The researchers found that restriction of exercise lowers the amount of oxygen in the body. This alters the metabolism and creates an anaerobic environment.
Restricting the activity of the leg muscles also seems to impact the gene CDK5Rap1, which is very important for the health of mitochondria, which is responsible for releasing energy which the body can then use.
It serves as another demonstration of the critical role of movement. Our body is designed to be active. Use it or lose it, as they say. We have to to walk, run, jump and use our leg muscles to lift things.
So, if you needed another reason to exercise and not to skip leg day… this would be it.
You don’t need any expensive equipment or a gym membership to give your legs a killer workout. Just use bodyweight leg exercises.
The great thing about bodyweight exercises is that you can do them anywhere, whenever you have some minute to spare, or while you’re watching TV.