Not that you should need to hear another reason to lace up and start running, but here’s a big one. New findings have shown that aerobic exercises like running, walking and even some bodyweight exercises can increase activity in the area of the brain responsible for learning, according to a report in The Telegraph.
The research was conducted by the Department of Psychology and the Department of Biology of Physical Activity at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland on rats that were subjected to sustained running, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and resistance training. The training period included six to eight weeks of the activities during which the control animals of the same rat strain were kept in sedentary conditions in the home cage.
Studies further concluded that neuron reserves in the brain’s hippocampus (the part of the brain that dictates the ability to learn) were boosted far more from sustained aerobic exercises like running, rather than high-intensity or resistance training, even though their physical benefits were beyond question.
Lead researcher Professor Heikki Kainulainen said: ‘The result is important because, according to previous research, the new hippocampal neurons produced as a result of neurogenesis are needed among other things for learning temporally and spatially complex tasks.”
“It is possible that by promoting neurogenesis via sustained aerobic exercise, the neuron reserve of the hippocampus can be increased and thus also the preconditions for learning improved also in humans,” Kainulainen added.
Most runners will also tell you that running is a great way to beat stress, and as we had reported last month, research is now taking steps towards making a direct connection between the two.
“Exercise is a powerful way to combat feelings of stress because it causes immediate increases in levels of key neurotransmitters, including serotonin, noradrenalin, dopamine and endorphins, that are often depleted by anxiety and depression. That’s why going for a run or spending 30 minutes on the elliptical can boost our moods immediately—combatting the negative feelings we often associate with chronic stressors we deal with every day,” Wendy A Suzuki, a neuroscientist had written for Quartz.