Forced Exercise: A Mental Workout?

in News
October 19th, 2011

We all know that we should hit the gym so we can look good, marry a rich dude, and not need to do science anymore. But can dragging yourself to the gym improve your cognitive assets as well?

Recent studies show that even in normal, healthy brains, that forced exercise has effects. Rats who ran voluntarily on a wheel placed on a cage were compared with those who forced to run on a treadmill. Even though the rats who ran voluntarily ran faster, those who were forced to run on a treadmill showed more proliferation in the dentate gyrus and performed better on cognitive tests.
Forced exercise has also been shown to decrease the risk of developing certain neurological disorder, and in the case of Parkinson’s has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of the disease to a certain extent. When forced to pedal at the relatively high speed of 90 rpms on a tandem bicycle, Parkinson’s patients had better full body motor control, with a decrease in symptoms like micrographia and tremors, as compared to controls who performed gentler activities like walking or biking at their own pace.

These recent developments are starting to be incorporated into how we treat Parkinson’s and may change how we treat other neurological conditions. Tandem pedaling programs have been started at several YMCAs and the leader of the study hopes to expand the program all over the country, and to investigate the effects of forced intense exercise on stroke recovery and other neurological diseases in the future.

What Parkinson’s Teaches Us About the Brain – The New York Times

Differential Effects of Forced and Voluntary Exercise – National Center for Biotechnology Information

Treadmill vs. Wheel Running – Journal of Physiology

Forced Exercise and Parkinsons – National Center for Biotechnology Information

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2 Comments on Forced Exercise: A Mental Workout?

  • Interesting post.. But how would one go about forced exercise. We have control over rats in a controlled experiment. But don’t see how I can force myself to do something that in my mind I don’t want to. It would have been nice if the article went on and gave some examples of how to force the exercise.

  • I wonder what this means for people who are actively training. Live forever?

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