All forms of exercise have been proven to generate more energy for the brain, but various studies indicate that the more competitive and rigorous the exercise, the bigger the mental payoff. Here is an overview of the link between running and your brain.
Boost Your Thinking
Running has been proven to spark the growth and development of fresh nerve cells (neurogenesis) and new blood vessels (angiogenesis) in the body, which in turn increases the volume of the brain tissues. In the 2011 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) report, for instance, older adults who exercised regularly indicated increased hippocampus volume by 2 percent (hippocampus is the region in the brain that is linked to learning and memory). 2 percent may not sound much until you realize that most brain tissues shrink with age; in fact, the hippocampus isn’t known to increase at any point as you age. Additionally, running is known to “rescue’ myriad brain cells that would otherwise die.
Increased Cognitive Skills
Running enhances your ability to learn and store new information and memories and can go a long way in staving off age-related dementia. In another 2010 study (still in the PNAS report), adult mice “runners” indicated new neuron growth that enhanced their ability to make distinctions between various shapes and colors over their sedentary counterparts. Previous studies carried on human beings also indicated similar deductions. Improved focus among other cognitive skills can help your body forestall dementia.
Running may also make the executive functions that are carried in your frontal cortex (such as planning, decision-making, juggling mental tasks, and organization) easier. In a 2010 Japanese study, for instance, individuals who had just completed bouts of physical exercises recorded high scores on mental tests compared to individuals who didn’t. Accordingly, it seems that running regularly can help you plan your spouses’ birthday party or company retreat without mixing up important details.
Increased Recall Power
Running or being aerobically active isn’t only beneficial to making memories, but also finding them whenever you want to. In another study carried among patients diagnosed with initial stages of the Alzheimer’s disease, participants who exercised were found to recall names of famous people faster and better. Again, running improves the quality of signals that are transmitted through memory circuits, enhancing your ability to have better access to zillions of details stored in your caudate nucleus (an area involved in brain motor functions).
Besides physical benefits, running also help you feel better mentally and emotionally. Running competitively, for instance, increases your confidence and aids in helping you to accomplish your goals, self-worth and self-esteem (feeling good about what you have achieved), perception (feeling better after noticing the efforts you’ve put to achieve a goal) and general emotional stability. Running may also be better than antidepressant drugs such as SSRI. Antidepressant drugs work by keeping your neurotransmitters in the synapses for a longer duration, improving your mood and outlook. As it turns out, running has similar effects.
By and large, there is a strong link between running and an alert, “younger”, and more nimble brain. Consequently, if you care about the long term rewards of running, make it a frequent habit or at least participate in running events such as Unite half marathon in New Jersey—one of the biggest half marathons in New Jersey that offers a scenic course on Rutgers University’s main campus.