Running Is Good Exercise For The Brain, Too!

It’s often said that the brain is like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Now it seems that exercise itself – especially running – is also good for your mental prowess.

The positive effects of running on psychological health have been known for some time. Running improves blood flow to the brain to enhance the supply of oxygen and nutrients. It can also help to alleviate symptoms of depression through the production of serotonin and, on long runs, by boosting oxytocin production – both of which are hormones that can lift your mood. Running also reduces stress, thereby reducing the release of cortisol hormone, which inhibits the growth of new brain cells.

More recently, however, there is a growing body of evidence that shows running increases the volume of your grey matter – the brain cells which help you think straight. Experiments by Cambridge neuroscientists have found that running stimulates brain cell growth in the dentate gyrus part of the hippocampus, one of the few regions of the adult brain that can grow fresh brain cells and is responsible for memory skills. They aren’t able to say for sure why this occurred, but it might have something to do with increased blood flow to the brain, brought about by exercise.

What is sure is that, being free of other distractions, an exercise such as running gives the brain space to breathe and flex its ‘muscle’. So next time you’re feeling uninspired, take 30 screen-free minutes to go for a run in the fresh air. The resulting pounding heart rate, and a rush of blood to the head might be the key to finding the answer to whatever questions you’re currently grappling with.

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