Research Shows Leg Exercises Lead To Better Brain Function And Heart Health

Research Shows Leg Exercises Lead To Better Brain Function And Heart Health | NordicTrack Blog

It can be easy to consider our functional fitness as being separate from the rest of our bodies. For instance, how often do people hop on their NordicTrack treadmill and think about how it will impact their heart or brain functionality? 

Probably not very often, but according to a groundbreaking study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, as well as other recent studies, leg exercises can be essential to improving your brain function and nervous system.

Research Connects Brain And Nervous System To Leg Exercises

The loss of mobility has long been linked to a decline in health. Still, it was not until recently that researchers have begun to investigate how exercise impacts a person’s cognition and nervous system. In the study Reduction of Movement in Neurological Diseases: Effects on Neural Stem Cells Characteristics, researchers specifically looked at how restricted leg movement affected both people and mice.

For the actual clinical trials, mice were used to see how they were affected by having their hind legs restricted. Over 28 days, the mice did not show any signs of stress and behaved as normal. However, when researchers looked at the sub-ventricular zone – which is the part of the brain in charge of nerve cell health in many different mammals – they saw a massive, 70% decrease in neural stem cells. 

Also, both oligodendrocytes and neurons (specialized cells that help insulate and support nerve cells) did not mature completely when the mice could not exercise their hind legs.   

What effect does exercise have on the nervous system?

Now, clearly, mice aren’t people. However, it has been noted that those who are not able to utilize their leg muscles – from extended travel astronauts to bedridden patients – often suffer from the expected loss of muscle mass, but their nervous system is also impacted. The study using mice has given health care professionals and researchers information into why that happens.

When you are able to perform load-bearing leg exercises, according to researchers, your brain receives signals that are critical to the continued production of healthy, mature neural cells. These new nerve cells are essential to the nervous system and brain, as it helps us to adapt to different challenges and manage stress effectively.   

Heart Health Is Also Improved By Exercise

As for your heart health, health care professionals have linked improved heart health with cardiovascular exercise. For instance, the American Heart Association cites decades of research concerning how cardiovascular exercise helps to improve heart health. Some of the specific cardiovascular health benefits of regular exercise that the AHA notes are:

Leg Exercises Benefits – NordicTrack Blog
  • Higher levels of HDL (good cholesterol)
  • Lower levels of LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Increase in your insulin sensitivity
  • Improved exercise tolerance
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced body weight

As all these things benefit your heart health, it makes a strong case for leg exercises, as this type of exercise is almost always a cardiovascular workout. Even something as simple as walking regularly can help.

Leg Exercises That Can Help Increase Health And Fitness Levels

So, if you are ready to improve your brain function, boost your nervous system productivity, and boost your heart health, you may be wondering what leg exercises you should start doing. 

Along with the example of walking, here are some other types of leg exercises you may want to try:


Most forms of popular dance classes require a good deal of leg movement. Be sure to choose a type of dance that emphasizes movement that’ll get your heart beating quicker to work your cardiovascular system.


If you want the benefits of leg exercise but have issues with high-impact cardio workouts, an elliptical is an excellent option. The smooth gliding motion provides you with low-impact cardio, but your own efforts – and using the resistance levels – can provide you with a real challenge.  

For your next cardio session, try an iFit® workout with Tommy Rivers Puzey. On his 10K Training Series, you can follow him on your elliptical as he guides you through the Balkans, exploring the medieval towns of Split and Dubrovnik while working on your cardiovascular health. Who said working out had to be boring and repetitive? We don’t think so!

Aerobics/Cardio Class 

Some people are more motivated to exercise regularly if they have a professional trainer leading. iFit has an expansive library of aerobic classes and bring virtual personal trainers into your own home for a private session.

This Killer Cardio And Core workout series with Kylie Ross will leave you strong and wanting more! After you finish this workout, let us know how you did in the comment section below.


Leg Exercises – NordicTrack Blog

Naturally, when talking about leg exercises, running comes up. To help protect yourself from overuse injuries while you chase better health, be sure to ease into running workouts if you are new to the sport. Start with slow and short runs and build up.

You can start off with these quick HIIT workouts for beginners then work your way up to this treadmill workout to increase the intensity with incline training and maximize your calorie burn. 


Cycling is a great way to pack in a great leg workout. This type of workout is low-impact and can burn major calories at the same time as improving your heart health.

Try this 30-day Fresh Start bike workout to get you started and you’ll be well on your way to a regular cycling routine.

Rather than just focusing on the physical aspect of leg exercises like sculpted legs, now you can understand the real benefit that goes a little deeper. There is no time like the present to get started on reaping those benefits and make it last a lifetime.

DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. NordicTrack assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article. Always follow the safety precautions included in the owner’s manual of your fitness equipment.