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Good News! One Workout Does Make a Difference

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A workout can change the brain for up to 48 hours.

On those super busy days, when a workout just isn’t happening, we might feel a bit guilty. And then those busy days can stretch into weeks or months…. On those rare moment when there is time, we might wonder, is it even worth it to bother squeezing in a trip to the gym or a yoga class? Yes, according to new research from UT Southwestern Medical Center. Even one workout can change the brain for days at a time, at least, it did for mice.

In a study published in Molecular Metabolism, the effects of exercise on an area of the brain shared by mice and humans were examined. The area is called the melanocortin brain circuit and has two types of neurons. One type, POMC, is associated with reduced appetite and higher metabolism when activated, while the other, NPY/AgRP, increases appetite and slows metabolism when it’s activated.

Researchers found that just one bout of exercise boosted the POMC activity in the mice and held back the NPY/AgRP, but here’s the really good news—the effect lasted for up to two days. Training routines for the mice included a workout defined by three 20-minute treadmill runs, which I must say is rather impressive. This little rodent marathon caused the mice athletes to have less appetite for up to six hours, as well as longer-range changes in their POMC neurons.

“It doesn’t take much exercise to alter the activity of these neurons,” wrote Dr. Kevin Williams, a neuroscientist at UT Southwestern. “Based on our results, we would predict that getting out and exercising even once in a semi-intense manner can reap benefits that can last for days, in particular with respect to glucose metabolism.”

The researchers hope that this study may lead to more research in how to treat people with conditions where controlling glucose is difficult, such as with diabetes. Until then, it’s good incentive to squeeze in a brisk workout whenever you can.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Spirituality & Health’s Wellbeing Editor, Kathryn Drury Wagner, is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 


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