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How does running affect the Brain?

how does running affect the brain

Is running good for you in other ways than just physical exercise? Let me explain what benefits running has on your brain and how you could improve other areas of your life by running.

Now I’m sure as a runner you’ve noticed that it can be very relaxing to be out running. You can clear your head and get rid of stress. Being away from a busy life, staring at computer screens and smartphones, can be a great escape. But there is more to it than that.

running is good for the brain

Several studies have shown that running has a real effect on the brain. A study from 2018 at the West Michigan University showed that running for half an hour improves cortical flicker frequency threshold. This is associated with the ability to better process information.

Another study from the Lithuanian Sports University and Nottingham Trent University showed that interval running improves executive function. This is what helps with attention, tune out distractions, switch between tasks and solve problems.

A study at the University of Arizona showed from brain scans that meditation and running can have a similar effect on the brain. This is of course something you may notice yourself in your running.

running improves memory

Bernward Winter did a study that showed running is good for your memory. The participants in the study were tested to see if they could learn new made up words. After running two intense sprints of 3 minutes, after 40 minutes of gentle running or after resting they were tested. They were able to learn 20% faster after the sprints and showed superior memory retention a week later when tested again.

Several studies have shown that running makes you happier. Elevated levels of tryptophan and serotonin are found in runners and a study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that physical activity helped to lower patients’ score of depression, anxiety and Stress Scale.

A study from the University of Maryland even showed that running could trigger the growth of new brain tissue. This is crucial, since research has shown that we begin to lose brain tissue after our late 20s. It was shown that exercisers increased the volume of their hippocampus, which is linked with learning and memory and was previously thought that this region of your brain couldn’t grow at all after childhood.

There are a lot more studies out there and all of them show that in one way or another running has a benefit on our brain and our mental fitness. So not only are you training to become a stronger and faster runner, you are training to be smarter.


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