Running Helps You Grow New Brain Cells

Over the years here at ProfHacker we’ve published a variety of posts about physical fitness, from Meagan Timney’s “Nurturing the Mind Body Connection” to Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s “Prioritizing Exercise” to Ryan Cordell’s endorsement of a 7-minute workout to Natalie Houston’s advice on how to fit exercise into a busy conference schedule.

Staying active obviously has benefits for one’s physical health, but researchers have demonstrated that there are also benefits for one’s psychological and intellectual well-being. For example, in a New York Times article published earlier this year, Gretchen Carlson reports the results of a study that found running — or any sustained aerobic activity — stimulates the creation of new brain cells much more than weight training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Just why distance running was so much more potent at promoting neurogenesis than the other workouts is not clear, although [the researchers] speculate that distance running stimulates the release of a particular substance in the brain known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor that is known to regulate neurogenesis. The more miles an animal runs, the more B.D.N.F. it produces.

This is not to say that there are no benefits to be found from weight training or high-intensity intervals, of course. However, if you want to keep growing those new brain cells, running seems to be the way to go.

What’s your typical exercise routine? Please share in the comments.

[CC-licensed Flickr photo by Robert Couse-Baker]

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