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Being Sedentary Can Change Your Brain Structure

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Brain Changes with Being Sedentary

Can too much sitting and resting affect your brain? Scientists say it can.

A recent study has shown that inactivity can lead to changes in brain structure. This study was conducted in rats and was able to conclude that being sedentary for long can change the shape of the brain cells which further affects brain and heart function. This was in contrast to previous belief that upon reaching adulthood, a person's brain can no longer undergo structural changes. However, recent research says that the brain exhibits plasticity or the ability to be reshaped in response to changes in our lifestyles and environments. It was shown by this research that inactivity can change the structure of the brain.

As described in the report published in The Journal of Comparative Neurology, scientists at Wayne State University School of Medicine and other institutions began to study 12 rats in cages. Half of these rats were given running wheels in their cages and had no restrictions with regards to their physical activity. The other half remained in cages with little or no activity so that they remained sedentary. After three months, these rats were studied as to their brain structure and function. The researchers found out that there were differences in the structures of the neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla, a part of the brain that is involved with the sympathetic nervous system as well as the regulation of blood pressure and circulation. The rostral ventrolateral medulla signals the sympathetic nervous system which in turn directs the blood vessels to dilate or to constrict with regards to blood flow. If the sympathetic nervous system is overactive, there would be higher risks for cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. In this study, the researchers found out that the neurons in the brain of the rats which had physical activity still retained their original shapes, while the neurons of the sedentary ones gained branches or tentacle-like arms. This particular shape has more branches than the usual neurons and is more sensitive to stimuli and can transmit impulses to and from the brain faster than the regular neurons. This causes overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system which in turn can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Sedentary Can Change Your Brain Structure

In the past, there have been many studies which have noted that being sedentary can cause a number of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancers and obesity. This body was equipped to move, not to sit down for long periods of time. This is why we have to be physically active to further avoid disease and debilitating.

What You Can Do

So what must we do to avoid being sedentary most of the time? First of all, we should start our days with non-exercise activities such as stretching, bending and turning. You should be able to do this for about 10 minutes per hour. Every day, you should a lot one hour for pure exercise, especially if you are working at your desk for about 8 hours per day. You can mix standing and sitting at most times and take regular breaks when you have too much desk work. Doing little things such as going to your officemate's desk instead of emailing, parking away from your office so that you can walk, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking to lunch can make wonders for your health.

For those who work long hours in the office, you can opt to end your day with a 15-minute walk towards your home. You not actually save gas; you burn calories to make yourself fit and healthy. At times, you can take the bus or the train to work instead of sitting at your car while driving to work.  Also, whenever you watch television, you may opt to stand up instead of sitting down. These are some tips you should be thinking about.

If you want to learn more on how to stay active, you can read our other articles on this site.