It’s important to keep the brain active, like a muscle, it strengthens the more we work on it. One such form of exercise is running. Running improves brain performance by keeping it active. “Exercise improves attention, memory, accuracy, and how quickly you process information, all of which helps you make smarter decisions,” says Charles H. Hillman, Ph.D. A new study from the University of Kansas found that running actually changes the way the brain communicates with the body, more so than other workouts. Scientists have found that the muscles in runners respond rapidly to signals from the brain.
A study published in the journal “Perceptual and Motor Skills,” women performed 20 percent better on memory tests after running on a treadmill than they did before exercising. They also increased problem-solving abilities by 20 percent.
Running improves brain performance, even more than those high-intensity workouts. In studies with animals, exercise, in the form of running wheels or treadmills, has been found to double or even triple the number of new neurons that appear afterward in the animals’ hippocampus, a key area of the brain for learning and memory, compared to the brains of animals that remain sedentary.
Scientists believe that exercise has similar impacts on the human hippocampus. Researchers at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland injected male rats with substances that mark the growth of new brain cells (Neurogenesis), the rats were then set to different tasks. The rats who jogged on wheels had robust levels of neurogenesis and those who had covered longer running distances had more growth of new cells in their brain. They concluded that sustained aerobic exercises, like running, could be most beneficial for the brain.
Running Improves Brain Performance in the Following Ways:-
Running boosts brain growth
Running increase the size of the hippocampus involved in verbal memory and learning and midbrain involved in hearing and vision.
Running Helps the Brain Age Better
Essentially running improves brain performance by working on the neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain. Studies have found that runners have healthier-than-average brains later in life due to improved synaptic plasticity. A synapse is like a gateway or a tunnel, which allows a neuron to pass a chemical “message” to another neuron. The plasticity is the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time, in response to increases or decreases in their activity.
Running increases communication between neurons, which keeps the synapses active over longer time periods. Evidence suggests that regular exercise can actually hinder age-related cognitive decline in humans.
Running Boosts Memory and Recall of Information
Running increases the supply of oxygen and glucose which is like “protein shake” for the brain cells. Let’s think of ‘running’ as the bartender. Running, as a form of exercise, is essentially serving up a “chemical cocktail” of hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. The hormones interact with a chemical called BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. It facilitates brain cell growth, mood regulation, and learning.
Running Helps Brain Store More Fuel
Researchers believe that larger glycogen stores in the brain may be one of the reasons running boosts cognitive function. Carbohydrates used during exercise are stored as glycogen in the muscles and around the liver. Running allows build up of these glycogen stores, which means there is more energy for muscles to actively communicate with the brain, to and from.
Running Boosts Feel-Good Chemicals in the Brain
Like many antidepressant medications, running helps your brain hold on to mood-boosting neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine (attention, perception, motivation, and arousal).
Not just running, but any form of exercise is important to keep the mind and body active and healthy. Humans were never meant to be couch potatoes! In today’s world, everything is available at the click of a button. Therefore, it’s more important to make time for exercise. Cardio workouts, like running increase overall blood flow in the body.
This not only keeps the brain and heart active but also imparts a healthy glow to the skin. One feels lighter, less stressed, more attentive to their surrounding, and overall feel good about themselves. Therefore apart from Sudoku, puzzles, crosswords, your running shoes can help increase your brain functioning.