A new study found that certain neurons changed shape in the brain and were significantly affected by the body being inactive. Previous research had already proven many positive effects of exercise to our brains’ health.

Several studies hope to find answers to why it is detrimental to health to be sedentary.  A shortened lifespan, the risk of heart disease and diabetes are symptomatic of a sedentary lifestyle. What though, happens in our brains when we lie about most of the day?

At Wayne State University School of Medicine, researchers studied inactivity in a dozen rats. Over a three-month period, half the rats were allowed to exercise and the other half were not.  The scientists then injected a dye into the rats in order to observe neurons in the area of the brain that controls the sympathetic nervous system. Significant differences were observed in the neurons of the two sets of rats. In the sedentary rats, the neurons changed shape and actually sprouted more branches than was normal. These branches caused the neurons to be over-stimulated and send confusing messages into the nervous system. The most profound impact was expected to be in the area of blood-pressure and cardiovascular health.

The authors of the study wrote in the published report,

“We suggest that these structural changes provide an anatomical underpinning for the functional differences observed in our in vivo studies. These inactivity-related structural and functional changes may enhance the overall sensitivity of RVLM neurons to excitatory stimuli and contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in sedentary individuals.”

In other words, sedentary individuals face an increased risk of cardiovascular disease not only from lack of stimulation to the heart, but also possibly because of the changes in the brain that being sedentary may cause. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. Sitting and lying around for most of the day affects our physical health.  Planning even very short walks and activities daily, through-out the day, is essential to stimulating our brains and staying healthy.