The benefits of exercise for aging Americans is well known: Prevention of diseases including diabetes and some cancers, reduction in the risk of falls, retention of bone density, and more. But new research suggests that exercise is not only beneficial to maintain mental acuity and brain function, it’s vital.

A study at the University of Maryland, published this week in the journalĀ Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, suggests that the benefits of exercise in boosting brain function may fade after only a relatively short lapse in a workout regimen.

Past research has shown that exercise, especially endurance exercise like running, biking, and rowing, has benefits for brain function. The theory has been that increased blood flow from exercise boosts the production of new neurons; what this new study shows is that when we lose our motivation for as little as 10 days, that increased blood flow diminishes.

Notably, while the researchers were able to observe this reduced blood flow, they did not observe diminished brain function in their test subjects. It’s not necessarily true that taking a week and a half off from running will leave you a drooling idiot. That said, the study adds to the pile of mounting evidence that our physical well-being is tied to regular exercise. Humans are evolved to move.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons