Inactivity Found to Spark Changes in Brain, Leading to Health Consequences

General Health

lazyBeing lazy isn’t only bad for your waistline, your career, and likely the cleanliness of your house—it’s bad for your brain. A new study published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology indicates being inactive can trigger changes in both brain chemistry and structure.

Looking at rats, researchers with Wayne State University School of Medicine found that those who didn’t have exercise wheels developed new branches between the rostra ventrolateral medulla brain neurons. It’s a mouthful, but these neurons control the “fight or flight” response. When compared with active rats, those inactive rats had more sensitive sympathetic nervous systems, or the fight or flight response was triggered more readily—indicating those who were accustomed to lazing about were more likely to have high blood pressure and negative cardio-health outcomes.

As explained in my report, “an overly responsive sympathetic nervous system—one that could be caused by an excess of neural branches—has been linked to cardiovascular disease by causing blood vessels to constrict too little, too much, or too often.”

“”This is your brain . . . and this is your brain on the couch…This finding is important because it adds to our understanding of how, at a cellular level, inactivity increases the risk of heart disease,” said Dr. Patrick Mueller, lead author of the study.

Read: Could Exercise Make You Smarter?

Normally, we equate active lifestyles with health, and it’s true that exercising regularly will strengthen your cardiovascular system. But, as this research shows, the opposite is also true—that inactivity can have negative results, not only because you aren’t working your heart and lungs with regular exercise, but because inactivity is having profound effects on your brain chemistry.

According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, less than 5% of U.S. adults exercise for at least 30 minutes daily. Only one-third receive the recommended amount each week.
Not only has this inactivity contributed to the obesity rates in this nation, but it also leads to increased rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and numerous other negative health outcomes.

You don’t have to run 5 miles to get a good workout. If exercise is difficult for you, try something fun like dancing, gardening, walking in the park, or mopping your floors with vigor. Your pants will fit better, your heart and lungs will work more efficiently, and your brain will be healthier if you avoid inactivity.