Going for a Run: A Pleasurable Exercise for your Brain

18 March, 2020
Running for at least half an hour per day has a positive effect on our psychological health. Furthermore, it's common knowledge that stress and anxiety decrease and our mood improves after a race. We can even get more creative!

Going out for a run is a very pleasant exercise for the brain. So much so, that it exerts almost the same effect as an orgasm on a neural level. It’s a torrent of endorphins and serotonin that acts almost as a ‘reset’ mechanism to turn off stress and worries and boost our well-being.

The benefits of running are so intense that it’s advisable to practice this activity every day for at least half an hour. Science has shown us for years the intense relationship between exercise and good brain health.

However, we don’t always realize it. We often think that swimming or being part of a soccer or basketball team is only good for our muscles, endurance, agility or strategy. We neglect the great impact it especially has on our emotions.

In fact, neuroscience has shown us that few practices are as beneficial as going out for a run. The body is made for this activity, for the movement of a race.

Our ancestors were much more active than us, they walked great distances, ran to hunt, and made their way through the woods collecting food for hours. Today, however, we’re a much more sedentary species, and this certainly has a serious impact on our health.

The benefits of going out for a run for your brain

They say that running is a form of freedom; the mind at least interprets is this way. For our brains, this fascinating organ is the product of evolution and lives enclosed within the bones of our skull, movement is life.

Furthermore, it rewards us with an abundance of neurotransmitters such as endorphins every time we decide to go for a run. That ‘cocktail of wellness’ ends up generating remarkable changes in the body and the brain if we practice it regularly. Let’s see what those benefits consist of.

A man going out for a run through the woods

A more agile brain that processes information better

According to a 2018 study from the University of West Michigan, running for half an hour optimizes our cognitive and executive processes. What does this mean? It implies that our ability to remember, solve problems, maintain attention and even our reflexes improve.

In other words, the brain becomes more agile in all of those mechanisms that help us to be more productive and effective in most of our daily tasks.

Going out for a run causes less stress

We live in a society where stress and anxiety are always accompanying us. Since we have to live with such exhausting psychological realities, our quality of life and potentially take a tough hit. If this is your case, few things will be as beneficial as going out for a run. However, if it’s not something you’re used to doing, it’s best to take it little by little.

It’s recommended to start walking and, when your body is able to, you can increase the pace and start running. If you do this every day, you’ll notice how your mood improves, your problems become relative and you’ll apply a new mental approach to those worries that haunt you. Stress will decrease moderately as the weeks go by.

Going out for a run and its relationship with creativity

This information is quite interesting. What kind of relationship can exist between running and creativity? A very close one, according to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. As writer David Thoreau once said: the moment the legs begin to move, thoughts begin to flow and fascinating ideas emerge in our minds.

Lorenza Colzato, a cognitive psychologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, found that this relationship is indeed real. Regular physical exercise, and specifically running, revert to our divergent thinking. In other words, our ability to create new and original information improves when we move intensively for at least half an hour.

A woman running while wearing her headphones

It’s an exercise that protects us against dementia and cognitive decline

Going out for a run protects us from cognitive decline. This doesn’t mean that being an athlete can ensure that we won’t develop Alzheimer’s disease, for example. It just means that the odds will decrease and, above all, that we’ll cope with the passage of time much more effectively by taking care of our brain health.

Experts have found that running optimizes the flow of blood to the brain. On top of that, the blood is much richer in oxygen and nutrients; this ends up benefiting the brain cells by strengthening their health and connections.

Likewise, we know that exercise stimulates the release of a very powerful type of neurotrophic, which improves the endurance of our brain tissues.

In conclusion, it doesn’t matter if we’re not professional athletes. As a matter of fact, even if we already practice a sport several times a week, it’s highly beneficial to go running regularly.

Ideally, instead of using a traditional treadmill at home or at the gym, we should run outdoors with a friend or with our dog. It’s much more enjoyable and the brain notices it!

  • Nicholas J. Hanson, Lindsey E. Short, Lauren T. Flood, Nicholas P. Cherup & Michael G. Miller. Cortical neural arousal is differentially affected by type of physical exercise performed. Nature Neuroscience, vol. 13, number 12 (2010) pp. 1526-1535