Scientists have done it again. As if we weren’t already convinced that exercising is one of the best things you can do for your health, a recent study by researchers in Ottawa has turned up yet another benefit to add to the list.
The discovery began with an attempt to save a population of genetically modified mice. These mice were modified to have smaller cerebellums (the part of your brain in charge of balance and motor skills) than your average mouse. This population of mice was also living a much shorter lifespan than normal because of this modification— and these researchers wanted to change that.
Instead of applying a technique to modify the genetic coding of the mice once again, a PhD student decided to go a different route. He placed wheels inside the cages so that the mice could run. Here’s what happened:
Monitoring the brains of the mice over the course of the study, the researchers found that the exercise stimulated the growth of a molecule (called VGF nerve growth factor) that aids in healing portions of the brain that have been harmed. To the naked eye, these changes may not have been visible, but anyone could see that the mice were getting healthier: They were gaining weight and their balance and movements were improving as well, and their lifespan increased to that of an average mouse (about 12 months).
SO WHAT DOES THIS TELL US?
This is huge news in the medical world, and a bonus for those of us in the physical fitness industry. While further research is needed, this is a solid start to physical activity being used as a treatment for brain damage and disorders. Already, researchers are looking into using this as a way to treat multiple sclerosis in the relatively near future.
We’ve known for quite a while now that regular exercise is good for more than just weight loss and maintenance; triggering the release of hormones that make you happy and reduce stress, improve your sleep quality, battle depression, and so much more. If you needed the extra motivation to get through that workout today, we hope this was it!