How running enhances your brain function, according to science

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Whether you run for fun, for fat loss or to train for a big race, there are heaps of benefits to be had from getting your kit on and enduring a regular run. In fact, you’ve probably seen fellow runners post a motivational quote to their Instagram profile along the lines of  ‘running is good for their mind, body and soul.’ Sure, it’s no news that it contributes to a strong and healthy body, or that it can protect your mental health, so you can kind of understand why it’s totally relatable for so many runners. However, more recently the University of Arizona have just discovered a whole new reason as to why this quote is even more scientifically legit. 

Ever heard of brain functional connectivity (particularly the frontal cortex)? It means how well your brain works when it comes to decision-making, multi-tasking and even planning. According to a recent study published by the University of Arizona, if you’re a runner, your brain is better at performing all three.

After researchers analysed MRI brain scans of adults aged between 18-25 (who were divided into two groups; cross-country runners and adults who don't engage in regular exercise), they found those who do run have greater connections between distinct brain regions. So, can we claim that running makes us even cleverer?  

"The areas of the brain where we saw more connectivity in runners are also the areas that are impacted as we age, so it really raises the question of whether being active as a young adult could be potentially beneficial and perhaps afford some resilience against the effects of ageing and disease," explains Alexander, a professor of neuroscience and physiological sciences to Science Daily.

In the past, enhanced brain function has only ever been associated with tasks that require a lot of hand-to-eye communication, like playing the piano or throwing darts. So the fact an day-to-day athletic activity has the potential power to enhance your brain so significantly from a young age, and have positive long-term effects later in life, might give you even more motivation to lace up your running shoes a little more regularly.