As little as 10 minutes of moderate-intensity running is enough to improve your mood and cognitive function, according to a new study.
The study examined the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in particular, the part of the brain associated with executive functions and mood control. Running resulted in increased blood flow to this area, the researchers found.
Running is something that is relatively easy for many of us to do – no special equipment or training is required to get started, and has been shown to extend lifespan. All of this coordinated movement also gives the brain more food for thought, it seems.
“Given the extent of executive control required to coordinate balance, movement and propulsion while running, it makes sense that there is increased neuronal activation in the prefrontal cortex and that other functions of this region would benefit from this increase in brain resources. ” says biochemist Hideaki Soya from the University of Tsukuba in Japan.
We already know that exercise can improve mental and physical health in many ways, but when it comes to mental well-being, relatively little analysis has been done on the specific benefits of running, compared to other physical activities such as cycling.
This is something the researchers decided to tackle, given the importance of running to our evolution as a species – when bicycles have only been around for a few generations – and the diversity exercises (from an occasional jog to a sprint). It is also an activity that physically involves the whole body.
A total of 26 participants were tested after periods of rest and after 10 minutes of running, in part using what is called a Stroop Color Word Test which measures reaction times in brain processing – one of the exercises may involve seeing the word “green” written in red ink and having to name the color rather than reading the word.
After exercise, participants responded faster to tests and also reported being in a better mood. This was in addition to the increased blood flow seen in PFC using a technique called near infrared functional spectroscopy (fNIRS).
“This was supported by the findings of coincident activations in the prefrontal cortical regions involved in mood regulation”, says researcher Chorphaka Damrongthai from the University of Tsukuba.
Many functions of PFC are unique to humans and are not found in the brains of other animals. The researchers therefore suggest that the findings they described could also improve our understanding of how we evolved as a species.
It’s also further proof that you don’t necessarily need to exercise a lot to feel the benefits. Short periods of activity have already been shown to improve mental focus, heart health, and overall metabolic health.
If exercise can be considered a form of medicine, the researchers point out, then different types of exercise are like different types of drugs – and we now know more about the effects of running and how it potentially could. be used as a form of treatment. or therapy.
Taken together, these results support our hypothesis that an acute attack of moderate intensity running causes an improvement in mood and improves executive function coinciding with activations of the prefrontal subregion involved in the regulation of l ‘mood,’ write the researchers in their paper.
The research was published in Scientific reports.