WashingtonAccording to a new study, ten minutes of moderate-intensity running can help process the part of the brain that plays a key role in controlling mood and executive functions.
The study is published in the ‘Journal of Scientific Reports’. There is clear evidence that physical activity has many benefits, such as its ability to improve mood, but in previous studies, cycling was the most frequently studied form of exercise.
Running has always played an important role in human well-being. The unique form and efficiency of human running, including the ability to maintain this form of exertion (i.e., by jogging as opposed to running), and the evolutionary success of humans are closely linked.
Despite this fact, researchers have not yet looked closely at the effects of walking on brain regions that control mood and executive functions.
“Given the range of executive control required in coordinating balance, motion and propulsion during walking, it is logical that there would be an increase in neuronal activation in the prefrontal cortex and that other functions in this region would benefit from this increase in brain resources.” Explained to Professor Hideki Soya.
To test their hypothesis, the research team used the well-established Stroop color-word test and captured data on hemodynamic changes associated with brain activity while participants engaged in each task.
For example, in one task, inconsistent information is shown, that is, the word red is written in green, and the participant must name the color instead of reading the word. To do this, the brain must process both sets of information and withhold external information. The difference in reaction time for this task and the Stroop interference effect was quantified for a simpler version of the task – assigning the names of the color samples.
The results demonstrated that after ten minutes of moderate-intensity running, there was a significant reduction in the Stroop intervention impact time. Furthermore, bilateral prefrontal activation was significantly increased during the Stroop task. After running, participants reported being in a better mood.
“This was supported by findings of coincidental activation in prefrontal cortical regions involved in mood regulation,” said first author Chorphaka Damrongthai.
Given that many features of the human prefrontal cortex are uniquely human, this study sheds light not only on the current benefits of running but also on the potential role that these benefits may have played in humans’ evolutionary past.
First published:December 26, 2021, 7 am