Miraculous Ways Running Improves Your Brain

by Jim Richardson | Last Updated: April 28, 2020

Do you know any dedicated, die-hard runners and wonder how on earth they do it, especially when they go for a jog in the heat of the day? Isn’t it tiring, strenuous, and miserable?

Running is the bonfire of calorie-burning exercises, so obviously it’s fantastic for weight loss. Research has also proven that running is an excellent exercise for the mind as well. Strenuous exercise like running has been shown to improve the brain’s functioning and even change the structure of the brain for the better.

Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Here are four miraculous ways it does just that.

Running Primes the Brain for Higher-Level Thinking

Can running make you a smarty-pants? Turns out it can. According to the New York Times (nytimes.com), running creates a plethora of neural connections in the brain that aid the mind in thinking more concisely and in greater complexity. Running isn’t as simple as plonking one foot in front of the other. You must navigate a roadmap that changes with each footstep, plus your brain is managing all your body’s signals: breathing, pain management, rhythm, speed, tension and effort. This constant supervision of the body results in a brain that is as agile and nimble as those swiftly running legs.

Running Triggers Neurogenesis 

You read that right: new brain cells. It was once widely believed that we got the brains we were born with and as we aged it slowly deteriorated. If you spend most of your life parked on the couch, that’s exactly what will happen; but, according to The Guardian newspaper, if you engage in vigorous exercise like jogging, new brain cells will grow in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is an area associated with memory and learning. Neuroscientists from Cambridge University and the U.S. National Institute on Ageing conducted a study using mice, in which mice that had used the running wheel often were pitted again mice who hadn’t exercised at all. The mice who ran scored twice as high as the sedentary mice on memory tests, even as the tests got more complicated and tricky. When their brains were compared, it was discovered that the runners had developed new brain cells. 

Running Stimulates the Frontal Lobe

According to New York (nymag.com), studies have found that 30 minutes of running or other strenuous cardio increases the blood flow in the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain linked with problem-solving, concentration, strategy, planning and time-management. Have you ever heard of a runner saying that a jog helped clear their minds or helped them figure out a problem? This is the reason why. Many aren’t even aware of consciously considering the problem, but afterward the solution was suddenly apparent to them. 

Running Turns the Brain into a Pleasure Powerhouse

Yes, of course, you’ve heard of runner’s high, but do you know what it is? Scientists believe it’s the repetitive and intense nature of running that causes the brain to release chemicals like endocannabinoids and endorphins, which create feelings of euphoria and dampens sensations of pain. That isn’t all; according to The British Psychological Society (digest.bps.org.uk), running increases the number of pleasure receptors in the brain. So not only is your brain pumping out plenty of feel-good chemicals, it becomes more efficient at feeling them. This is the definition of a win-win, right?

All this time you’ve been envying your running friends for their unfathomable stamina and dedication. As it turns out, they’re reaping benefits far beyond looking good. Why not go for a run yourself and enjoy some of them, too? 

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