7 Ways In Which Running Is Good For The Brain


6 Min Read

Running Can Help You Become Smarter

Running makes you a better learner by generating neurons in the brain. It sharpens memory and delays age-related memory loss by releasing a protein that helps produce brain cells critical for memory. Run during your work hours, and you'll be more productive, thanks to a better reflex, better focus, and more creativity. It won't just lower stress and lift your mood, it'll also make you more expressive and humorous.

Being active is known to benefit not only your body but also your brain. Time and again, various studies have proven that exercise makes one happy and stress-free. But does it make us smarter? Not really, says a Finnish study. But before you throw your hands up and give up on your fitness plan, let us make it clear. The study, done on rodents, found that high-intensity interval training does not have much effect on your brain, but aerobic exercise, like running, does.

How Is Running Good For The Brain?

1. You’ll Be The Model Learner

Running has positive effects on “brain structure and function.” It helps in the generation of new nerve cells or neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that aids the process of learning.1

2. You’ll Boast Of A Sharp Memory

Researchers at the National Institute Of Aging have found that exercises like running help release a protein that generates new cells in the hippocampus, the area that is also critical for memory. The study was first done on rodents, then on monkeys, and finally on humans to arrive upon the final findings.2

It was seen that there was an increase in cathepsin B, the cell-generating protein, in the blood level, after dedicated aerobic exercise, and the subjects fared well in memory tests conducted afterward. The individual who had the largest increase in cathepsin levels showed the largest gains in memory.

Running and being physically active in your heyday can not only keep you fit as you march into old age but also slow down aging-related brain dysfunctions. A large-scale study3 conducted on over 2,400 respondents over a period of 20 years found that signs of aging like forgetfulness were much less in those who were more active while they were younger. The respondents who were first examined in the 1980s were invited for a memory test 25 years later. They were asked to remember words from a list, and it was found that for every additional minute they had been able to run as a young adult, they could remember one additional word from the list.

4. You’ll Be As Attentive As A Watchdog

If you are fit, you will be able to pay more attention to tasks at hand and focus your mind on what needs to be done. But is this just coincidental? No, says a study conducted at Spain’s University of Granada.4 Researchers brought together 22 triathletes and 20 people having low aerobic fitness. Both these groups were asked to perform the dull task of sitting in front of a blank computer screen and reacting as fast as they could on seeing a full red circle.

  • You’ll React Faster

The results of the study showed that the triathletes had a shorter reaction time compared with the other 20 subjects. Their speed in reacting to stimuli was attributed to a better transmission of nerve impulses, or what can be called better neuroelectric activity. This indicates a sharp focus.

  • You’ll Remain Attentive

Attention itself is a limited resource, and one is constantly struggling to allocate it optimally across tasks and time. The triathletes demonstrated a better ability to allocate their attentional resources through the duration of this test. The study concluded that there is a significant positive association between aerobic fitness and sustained attention.

5. You’ll Express Yourself Uniquely, And With Humor

You may be wondering how running a few miles and sweating it out can increase creativity, a trait that seems apparently unrelated to physical activities. Whoever heard of poets being great runners, right? But a study published in the Creativity Research Journal found that those who engaged in moderate aerobic exercises like running saw an increase in their creative potential.5

Among the 60 college students, who were given a Torrance Test Of Creative Thinking, those who had exercised before the test were found to be able to sustain this increased potential for up to two hours after the workout regime. They displayed better emotional expression, expressed their ideas coherently and fluently, and showed a higher sense of humor and originality in their works.

The researchers further suggested that creative performances could be improved at the workplace if activities were designed using these results.

6. You’ll Get The Most Done At Work, Happily

If you pay more attention, have better memory, and are more creative, you are bound to become more productive at whatever you do. Agrees this study6 conducted at the University of Bristol that found that exercising at the workplace showed a positive effect on workplace performance. Employees reported being in a better mood and high on productivity on days they performed physical activities like running on a treadmill during working hours.

7. You Will Whizz Past Those Depression Blues

Running is known to release feel-good hormones that elevate mood and lower stress and anxiety levels. It has also been found to keep depression at bay. A study, in 2004, compared running and psychotherapy, in which subjects suffering from panic disorder were asked to run for 20 minutes 3 times a week for 10 weeks.7 They showed a significant reduction in depression, the positive benefits of which were still present at a 4-month follow-up.

In another study, women who met the research diagnostic criteria for major or minor depression were assigned an 8-week running (aerobic) program. Results indicated that the running program significantly reduced depression.8

So put on your running shoes and make a dash toward a better and smarter today and tomorrow.

References   [ + ]

1.Nokia, Miriam S., Sanna Lensu, Juha P. Ahtiainen, Petra P. Johansson, Lauren G. Koch, Steven L. Britton, and Heikki Kainulainen. “Physical exercise increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis in male rats provided it is aerobic and sustained.” The Journal of physiology 594, no. 7 (2016): 1855-1873.
2.Moon, Hyo Youl, Andreas Becke, David Berron, Benjamin Becker, Nirnath Sah, Galit Benoni, Emma Janke et al. “Running-Induced Systemic Cathepsin B Secretion Is Associated with Memory Function.” Cell Metabolism 24, no. 2 (2016): 332-340.
3.Zhu, Na, David R. Jacobs, Pamela J. Schreiner, Kristine Yaffe, Nick Bryan, Lenore J. Launer, Rachel A. Whitmer et al. “Cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive function in middle age The CARDIA Study.” Neurology 82, no. 15 (2014): 1339-1346.
4.Luque-Casado, Antonio, Pandelis Perakakis, Charles H. Hillman, Shih-Chun Kao, Francesc Llorens, Pedro Guerra, and Daniel Sanabria. “Differences in Sustained Attention Capacity as a Function of Aerobic Fitness.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 48, no. 5 (2016): 887-895.
5.Colzato, Lorenza S., Ayca Szapora Ozturk, Justine Nienke Pannekoek, and Bernhard Hommel. “The impact of physical exercise on convergent and divergent thinking.” Frontiers in human neuroscience 7 (2013): 824.
6.Coulson, J. C., J. McKenna, and M. Field. “Exercising at work and self-reported work performance.” International Journal of Workplace Health Management 1, no. 3 (2008): 176-197.
7.Hovland, Anders, Inger Hilde Nordhus, Trond Sjøbø, Bente A. Gjestad, Birthe Birknes, Egil W. Martinsen, Torbjørn Torsheim, and Ståle Pallesen. “Comparing physical exercise in groups to group cognitive behaviour therapy for the treatment of panic disorder in a randomized controlled trial.” Behavioural and cognitive psychotherapy 41, no. 04 (2013): 408-432.
8.Byrne, A., and D. G. Byrne. “The effect of exercise on depression, anxiety and other mood states: a review.” Journal of psychosomatic research 37, no. 6 (1993): 565-574.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.