According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical inactivity is responsible for 6% of registered deaths worldwide and is one of the four main mortality risk factors. For this reason, the organization recommends avoiding sedentary lifestyle by dedicating at least 150 minutes a week to physical activity, albeit of moderate intensity, to all those over 18 years of age and at least 60 minutes a day to those under 17.
In Spain, more than 40% of the population is sedentary. “A situation that in summer can worsen despite the fact that it is well known that physical exercise has important health benefits and that carrying out moderate physical exercise is very beneficial for maintaining a healthy brain,” says Dr. David Ezpeleta, spokesman for the Group. of Study of Humanities of the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN). “For this reason, whether we have relaxed excessively during the summer, or if we have taken advantage of the greater free time for physical activity, September is a key month to take measures against sedentary lifestyle or to maintain the good habits that we have acquired during the summer, according to the cases ».
Sedentary lifestyle is one of the main risk factors for both neurodegenerative diseases and cerebrovascular diseases. In addition, it significantly reduces the quantity and quality of sleep, affecting our physical and intellectual performance. On the other hand, physical activity is beneficial both for cerebral vascularization and for promoting neuronal synapses. In fact, some studies have shown, among the many benefits of exercising, its protective function against neurodegenerative or cerebrovascular diseases, to the point of assuming a delay of 10 or more years in the appearance of the first clinical manifestations.
“Multiple lines of research have shown that physical activity, especially aerobic exercise , is a powerful stimulus for neurogenesis. Physical activity could stimulate the formation of neurons in the hippocampus, the region of the brain that participates, among others, in memory and learning, “explains the doctor. “In addition, physical activity improves various brain executive functions such as motivation and the drive to exercise, that is, the same exercise helps to overcome laziness and promotes itself, closing a virtuous circle of enormous importance for health” Apostille.
Exercise in people with neurological diseases
Regular exercise and physical activity not only promote brain and general health in the broadest sense of the term, but must also be part of many rehabilitation and neurorehabilitation programs. “Currently, we have sufficient evidence to recommend physical activity as part of the treatment in most neurological diseases, although always adapted to the possibilities of each patient,” says Dr. Nuria González-García, spokesperson for the society.
In patients with multiple sclerosis , physical activity produces an improvement in almost all the clinical parameters studied, especially in walking speed, fatigability and spasticity. Other also relevant aspects, such as depression, quality of life and fatigue, benefit from the practice of physical exercise, even in more advanced forms of the disease. “In general, we recommend these patients perform aerobic and resistance exercises, such as walking or cycling, as well as posture maintenance exercises or transfers. Ideally first thing in the day and in cool environments, “says González-García.
Patients with epilepsy may also benefit from exercise in the possible reduction of seizures and interictal epileptiform discharges. Reduction of clinical and electrical epileptiform activity has been demonstrated in groups of temporal lobe epilepsy and juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. “In these cases, we recommend doing collective and contact sports (such as soccer, basketball or judo) or racket sports. The reason is that they are activities that, in the event that the patient suffers a crisis during sports, he will not be alone and the episode will not pose a greater risk to him or to the other players, “says the doctor.
Exercise is not only considered favorable in migraine patients , but it should be one of the pillars of preventive non-pharmacological treatment. Physical activity has been shown to have analgesic function in both the short and long term. Exercises involving the cervical and shoulder muscles appear to be the most effective.
On the other hand, it is probably in the cognitive function where the knowledge of the benefits of exercise has been deepened the most. This has positive effects both in healthy individuals and in patients with cognitive impairment . “In Alzheimer’s disease, it has even been suggested that it could slow neurodegeneration or prevent cognitive decline in preclinical or incipient cases. In patients with mild cognitive impairment, physical exercise should be recommended at least twice a week as part of the treatment, “emphasizes the doctor.
As in other degenerative diseases, in Parkinson’s disease patients , physical activity has shown not only the improvement of motor and non-motor symptoms, but could modify the survival and progression of the disease. Benefits have been shown with very diverse exercises, such as dance, yoga, taichi, aerobic or resistance exercise, with improvement in walking speed and postural balance. In addition, physical activities that include rhythmic music involve activating neural areas of motor control and further improve walking and balance.
Finally, it should be noted that there are numerous studies that have studied the benefits of exercise after a stroke with motor involvement. “Physical activity helps moderately in the rehabilitation of the paretic limbs , but very significantly in walking; in addition, those patients who exercise regularly have a smaller final area of the infarction, greater collateral circulation and improvements in blood flow after the stroke, “concludes González-García.