Inactivity and the Brain Part 1


Brain CogsThe article in this post was written by Bell Beth Cooper for the blog Buffer Social. Her article is a little lengthy for me, and possibly a little long for you too. I took the liberty of dividing the full article into a few manageable parts. I enjoyed reading the article, and I hope you will too. I decided to share the article because it delivers an important message and supports the message with facts. Although the message is a bit technical in a few places, the overall message is quite valuable.

Article written by Belle Beth Cooper

I know exercise is good for me. I know it’s important for my health and happiness and that it’s necessary for general fitness. That part’s easy — we hear about how we should exercise more all the time.

What I didn’t realize was how being inactive is really detrimental to the brain and body. I didn’t understand all of the specific ways regular activity can be beneficial, either.

With a little digging around, I found some research that made me realize there’s much more to exercising than just getting fit.

Inactivity changes our brain structure – literally

Firstly, the bad news. If you’re living a sedentary lifestyle, which more of us are prone to doing as technology takes away physical barriers for our work, you could be increasing your risk of heart disease. You may have even heard this before, since it’s fairly common knowledge that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease — what’s new in recent research are clues to exactly how this link might work.

Researchers at Wayne State University School of Medicine recently found that rats who were mostly sedentary for almost three months actually had physical changes in their brains, as a result. Some of the rats’ neurons had extra branches — the parts that help them connect into the sympathetic nervous system, where a lot of our involuntary physical functions are regulated, like breathing. Having too many branches, as the brains of these rats did, could lead to overstimulation of the nervous system.

The researchers involved in this study looked at the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM) section of the brain. This is the part of our brain that runs the sympathetic nervous system and helps us to maintain a regular heart rate and avoid serious issues like hypertension.

One of the things regulated by the sympathetic nervous system is the constriction of blood vessels to maintain regular blood flow and keep our blood pressure from spiking. This is where the researchers see a potential insight from their study: if inactivity affects this function of the sympathetic nervous system, that could explain how it leads to high blood pressure and higher risk of heart disease.

Of course, rats aren’t the same as humans, but the study does point out a possible direction for further research into the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle.


Click here to read another Beyond Injury post.

Thanks to Lee Huff for sharing the article; researchers at Wayne State University School of Medicine for conducting the study; Belle Beth Cooper for summarizing the study in her article; Buffer Social for committing its resources to publishing the article; Google for helping me find the article; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text I used in this post.


  1. Exercise is wonderful. Less weight, less stress, better concentration, more energy, better sleep, less heart disease, stroke, cancer, improved self confidence, body image. It’s hard for me to exercise.

    Last week my neighbor had an emergency so I dog walked for a week. The dog woke me up every morning, we walked daily for 30-60minutes, and I picked up poop. I took four hour naps afterwards and I had fun!

    I am now considering a furry rescue friend of my own, save a dependable motivator that is always happy to see me, will adore me, and will help pull me up the difficult hills, not to mention keep me company and help me live longer.

    1. Acquiring a furry friend may be helpful, but it may also distract you from other priorities. Your life may become easier, or it may become a lot more complicated. Only you can decide.

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