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Research: The importance of weight bearing exercise

A new study described as ‘ground breaking’ by the researchers and press has been released. It states that neurological health depends as much on the messages from the body to the brain as much as the brain to the body. This gives us an insight into why there can be a decline in people with neurological disease when movement becomes limited.

The research shows that the loss of weight bearing exercise such as when bed ridden (or even astronauts!) not only reduces the muscle mass of the body but also changes the chemistry and affects the nervous system adversely.

The researchers used two separate groups of mice: one allowed to live life normally and the other with restricted use of their hind legs. The two groups were observed for 28 days. After the 28 days had passed it was found the mice who used their hind legs less had 70% fewer neural stem cells (the cells which create new nerve cells throughout life) in comparison to the mice who were able to live normally.

Fewer of the oligodendrocytes (cells which provide a support structure and insulation to the nerves in the nervous system) did not reach maturity. When these cells do not function correctly it reduces the speed at which nerve impulses can be transmitted.

Another difference seen between the groups was a reduction in the blood oxygen levels in the mice who had restricted hind leg usage. Reduction in a gene’s functionality associated with mitochondria or the ‘power house’ for the cell was a more surprising result from the study.

Researchers are hoping this study will be applied to the neurological diseases affecting movement such as Multiple Sclerosis and Spinal Muscular Atrophy in an attempt to help strengthen exercise protocols.


The results of the study showed that weight bearing exercise is essential for brain as well as nervous system function. This means the old advice of bed rest or reduced activity for back pain may have actually had a negative impact on the long term nervous system health for that person.

The nervous system is not a one-way street with the brain telling the body what to do, but the communication in both directions allows for optimal function. This is a principle which has been in Chiropractic since its inception, this research confirms this theory initially put forward by DD Palmer, founder of Chiropractic. Maintaining the brain body connection is just as vitally important as a good exercise or healthy eating plan to reach our peak!