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Exercise & Your Brain

By now we have all come to accept and understand that exercise has countless benefits on the brain and mental health; making us well-rounded, balanced and smarter individuals (at least in most cases). But little is known about exactly how long these byproducts of exercise last.

It seems reasonable to assume that if exercise declines so will the mental and physical body. Well exercise research has now evolved to provide some indication of our mental state if (and when) our active life turns sedentary.

Research emerging from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil found in a recent study that cognitive functions begin to decline just three weeks after exercise is removed from our routine. Not great news for those of us who like to relax on an extended summer vacay.

The study also found that those inactive for even longer periods, like six weeks are far less likely to produce newborn neurons in the brain’s memory centre thus limiting mental capabilities.

Senior author of the study, Professor Gilberto Xavier, verified the findings in a recent article published in the New York Times as he stated, “Brain changes are not maintained when regular physical exercise is interrupted.”

An earlier study conducted by McMaster University in Ontario, measured the effect exercise had on mood and found that physical activity does indeed assist in mood regulation. The study confirmed the long-held belief that regular exercise decreases the likelihood of developing anxiety. As a result of the study, inactivity was found to contribute to a more fragile emotional state, which worsened with longer periods of idleness.

Although these studies are not entirely conclusive and further research needs to be conducted on the human body, it seems that three weeks should be our maximum rest period to maintain a bright mind.

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The Rx Review is an independent fitness website, reporting on the Sport of Fitness, functional fitness news, The CrossFit Games, health and diet related information, and also provides reviews on sports performance products.