The Cognitive Benefits of Running
Running is fun, right? Right? Okay, well, some people find it fun, or monotonous, or even tortuous — but others often find it stress-relieving and essential to their day-to-day living routine. To that end, did you know that there’s science supporting that mind-cleared feeling that comes after a nice run? Well, it all starts with neurons cells that carry messages between the brain and other parts of the body.
I could try to explain the science with my 50% completed psychology degree, but I’ll defer to the experts. Melissa Dahl explains in a fascinating article for New York Magazine called “How Neuroscientists Explain the Mind-Clearing Magic of Running”:
“Studies in animal models have shown that new neurons are produced in the brain throughout the lifespan, and, so far, only one activity is known to trigger the birth of those new neurons: vigorous aerobic exercise, said Karen Postal, president of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology. ‘That’s it,’ she said. ‘That’s the only trigger that we know about.'”
The cognitive clarity we feel after going for a run can be attributed to the generation of these neurons, but that’s not the only anatomical benefit of running: memory is also enhanced, as discussed by Dahl and Postal:
“The other fascinating thing here is where these new cells pop up: in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with learning and memory. So this could help explain, at least partially, why so many studies have identified a link between aerobic exercise and improvement in memory. ‘If you are exercising so that you sweat — about 30 to 40 minutes — new brain cells are being born,’ added Postal, who herself is a runner. ‘And it just happens to be in that memory area.’”
Even if you don’t enjoy running, there are some pretty substantial cognitive benefits associated with aerobic exercise. At CoachUp, we want to help you find a way to get your heart racing and neurons firing. This doesn’t have to be running, either as many sports include an aerobic aspect. Whatever it is you do enjoy, go out there and do it! If you’re looking for some individual or group training to find out how good you can be, check out CoachUp!
How Neuroscientists Explain the Mind-Clearing Magic of Running — New York Magazine