Diet, lifestyle, yoga, everything can help improve brain functioning. However, from today we know that there is an even simpler and more immediate method to increase the brain's ability to process information and also improve mood, a short run of just ten minutes! This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research published in Scientific Reports, a journal of the prestigious Nature group, by a Japanese team (Damrongthai et al, Scientific Reports, Nov 2021).
The benefits of running
A short run, at moderate intensity and for just ten minutes, is an activity within everyone's reach, it does not require special equipment, like the bicycle, and does not involve an excessive waste of time in traveling such as in the case of swimming. However, to date, little was known about the effects running can have on the brain. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for coordinating movement, but also for regulating mood and the functioning of cognitive processes. This part of the brain is activated during running, since various abilities are called during this action, such as maintaining balance, movement, coordination and speed management.
Therefore, the scientists thought that it was logical to expect an increase in neuronal activation in the prefrontal cortex with benefits also in the other areas of action of the prefrontal cortex, hence mood and cognitive functioning.
Ten minutes of running a day are enough, the experiment
In order to verify this hypothesis, the scientists recruited 26 adults, all in good health. Study participants were asked to complete a ten-minute moderate-intensity running session on the treadmill and a rest session. The two sessions took place in random order.
Then, the volunteers were asked to take the Stroop test in order to evaluate the difference in response times between the basic task, indicating the color in which the symbols were written, and the advanced task, indicating the color in which names of colors were written. For example, in case of the word "red" written in green you have to speak the word "green" aloud. The brain is thus called upon to select information and ignore interference, in this case the meaning of the word. During this test the volunteers were subjected to exams to evaluate the blood flow in the different areas of the brain. What emerged was that after ten minutes of running the difference in the response times of the two tasks was significantly reduced. This means that the brain's ability to process information, deciding which inputs to leave out and thus taking action, has increased. Not only that, the researchers also observed an increase in activity in the prefrontal cortex, indicating that running actually stimulated the work of this brain area. Finally, the volunteers also reported a significant improvement in mood after the running session. This was explained by the observation that running activated the areas of the brain responsible for regulating mood.
Here is further proof that small lifestyle changes can bring great benefits. There is no need to run beyond your means and for a long time. The experiment we talked about today shows that ten minutes of running at moderate intensity are enough to allow the brain to process information faster and more effectively and to improve mood!