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March 3, 2016

Learning to run, running to learn

A recent meta-study entitled, “Neuromodulation of Aerobic Exercise: A Review” revealed interesting findings on how aerobic exercise such as running can affect the brain. First, running and aerobic exercise can help to regulate cortisol, a stress hormone. Engaging in running or another aerobic style of exercise can also trigger the release of endorphins. This is often seen when runners are able to achieve the “runner’s high” and experience a relaxation effect. When this is coupled with cortisol regulation, it creates a great opportunity to reduce the individual’s stress.

The study also revealed that aerobic exercise increased brain-derived neurotrophic factors. When the brain is in a beta state, it is highly alert and poised to deal with high-stress situations. However, you don’t want your brain to be in such a situation for long. In the alpha state, the brain is still alert, yet this is more of a flow state. The mind and body know what to do and are able to relax as they complete their functions. This is the state that is achieved.

It was also found that aerobic exercise prompted production of serotonin, which affects emotion and memory. The serotonin is actually converted to melatonin, which aids in sleep. This may help the brain in its ability to recall memories or information. Additionally, dopamine was also increased, which has benefits with short-term memory, motor control, and cognition.

The benefits of aerobic exercise are clear, but how can you find the right level of intensity for you? Find the happy medium of where you can say a few words while running or exercising, but yet you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation. The key is to monitor how you are feeling. Of course, you will want progression, but it is important not to overdo it. An enriched environment is also beneficial to your results, as it can lead to greater longevity, according to one study. In the end, adopting running or other aerobic exercise has great health benefits and is certainly worth consideration for inclusion in your fitness routine.

The tao of running | Gary Dudney


Music: Ben Sound Royalty Free Music