Running can Change Your Brain – and Your Life!

Posted in Fitness

Runners’ bodies are leaner, with more muscle mass, lower BMI (body mass index), and they are generally just happier people. Have you wondered how – and why – runners seem to be “addicted” to their running regimen? You’ve probably heard your friends complain that if they don’t get to run every morning/evening that they feel “draggy” and even irritable.

When it’s a consistent form of exercise, running’s benefits are so valuable that your body and your mind notices the absence when you stop, even for a week.

Running is a Cerebral Experience

Science writer David DiSalvo says running causes neurogenesis, which is the growth of new brain cells. Nobody knows exactly why or even how. It could be because running increases your body’s blood flow. Or it could be because of the adrenalin boost that lowers your cortisol (the “stress hormone”) production.

Too much cortisol can lead to:

• Abdominal fat storage
• Cognitive performance problems
• Higher blood pressure
• Hyperglycemia
• Imbalanced thyroid function
• Lower bone density
• Lower immunity
• Lower muscle mass
• Sleep problems

Depression is one of the results of reduced neurogenesis, which is why drugs like Prozac or Celexa are prescribed. Those drugs encourage the growth of new brain cells. So does running, the other antidepressant.
We may not know how or why, but we know it’s true because of a 2009 Cambridge study in which running mice not only had better memories but grew new brain cells during the experiment. The sedentary mice – representative of today’s office workers – had a less-than-stellar brain performance level. So, it’s science: You can lower your stress levels through running and grow some more brain cells while maintaining a healthier body balance.

Perhaps women more than men reap additional life-enhancing benefits from running. Women are often encouraged to focus on appearance, not health, but the fact is, many men and women feel better when they think they look better. Notice the words, “they think they look better.” Appearance can be more a state of mind than a physical fact.

Many runners began that form of exercise to combat obesity and the health issues related to being overweight. If your body is in better shape because of running, then you feel more attractive. Running changes your life because you feel better, and feeling better impacts your outlook, your decision-making, and your relationships. Other lifestyle benefits include:

• Running can save money. Unlike other sports, all you need for running is a great pair of shoes and sunscreen.
• Running can lead to new friendships and social interaction. On your gym’s track or the neighborhood running path, you’ll pass other runners. You may smile, or nod. You may share a brief exchange: “Are we going to beat the rain?” You may become unofficial running buddies or lifelong friends.
• Perhaps you will encourage others to work toward better physical fitness when they see how running has changed your life!

Posted in Fitness