15 minutes of running boosts your mood more than meditating, new study finds

15 minutes of running boosts your mood more than meditating

If you use running as a way to relax from a busy day, you’re not alone. Lacing up has been proven to help you wind down and de-stress, and now there’s new research to show that it’s even more beneficial for your brain than the meditation portion of that yoga class you’ve been taking.

According to a recent study published in the journal Acta Psychologica, going out for as little as one to two miles improves attention span, concentration, and overall mood more than meditation does.

Researchers in France had 101 University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne students take two cognitive tests: the Vigor-Activity (VA) subscale of the Profile of Mood States, which assesses levels of perceived energy, and the Trail Making Test (TMT), which is split up into two parts and evaluates processing skills.

Then the students were split up into two groups: one that ran outside for 15 minutes, completing a 1.5-mile loop around the campus, and another that stayed in a classroom to take part in a 15-minute relaxation session, which incorporated exercises such as guided imagery, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing. 

Related: Running makes you a happier person, new research finds 

Afterwards, the students took the same two cognitive tests again—and the results were clear: those who ran scored an average of two points higher on the VA subscale and were an average of eight seconds faster on both parts of the TMT test.

However, those who underwent guided relaxation scored an average of six points lower on the VA subscale and were an average of one-third of a second slower on the first part of the TMT test and one-tenth of a second slower on the second part of the TMT test. 

So why did the group that ran see more cognitive benefits than the group that did guided relaxation?

Fabien Legrand, Ph.D., senior lecturer of psychology at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne and the study’s lead author, told Runner's World US in an email that “the changes in cognition brought about by exercise could be explained in terms of indirect effects—in particular, increased feelings of energy.”

Translation? Those who went for a run came back more peppy and awake, which improved their moods and helped them focus better on the tests at hand. But those who meditated reported feeling more tired and groggy, therefore performing worse on the tests.

So if you need a quick way to boost your mood, no matter what time of day, logging a quick couple of miles should do the trick.

Also in the news this week: 

Bournemouth goody bags called into question for this reason 

Record numbers of runners take part in the Oxford Half Marathon but didn't recieve a medal 

A version of this article appeared on Runner's World US