Forced Exercise: A Mental Workout?
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