The scientists who studied 11 male runners aged between 18 and 25 and another set of 11 young men who said that they had not exercised in the past year, discovered that increased connectivity between brain regions is known to improve memory, the ability to multi-task.
According to a report published on Daily Mail Online, the researchers noted that going for an early morning run could help to keep you alert for the rest of the day, while the brains of inactive men didn’t show quite the same levels of alertness.
While previous studies have confirmed that playing a musical instrument can stimulate the same region – the frontal cortex – this is the first time scientists have linked it to running, to keeping the brain active.
“Part of the brain responsible for decision-making and planning is activated during a jog, a study found. ‘To me, this suggests that running may not be such a simple activity after all,’ said Professor Gene Alexander, who co-led the study.
‘It requires complex navigational skills plus an ability to plan, monitor and respond to the environment, juggle memories of past runs, and also continue with all of the motor activities of running, which are very complicated.’
Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.
Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.