Runner’s brains

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Is running good for your brain? A pair of researchers just found that running improves the connectivity of parts of the brain- parts that lose traction as we get older. The study may convince you to get moving.

Dr. Gene Alexander, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Arizona says, “By looking at these scans, we were able to tell that the endurance athletes who engaged in a lot of physical activity had areas in the brain that were more active and more connected than the non-athletes.”    

The red shows more connection between parts of the brain responsible for memory, decision-making and multitasking. The yellow shows the same thing. This could be from increased blood flow or production of factors that help neurons work better and grow. 

Dr. David Raichlen, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Arizona says, “What we know right now is that something is better than nothing and so more than likely you’re going to get big bang for your buck if you go from very little activity to some activity.” 

Brain connectivity diminishes as we age and is a factor in diseases like Alzheimer’s. What the researchers learn from young runners now, could help aging adults later. 

Dr. Alexander says,”We’re hoping to find ways in which we can use exercise to improve the brain function structure as we age and provide recommendations and prescriptions for better aging.”

So even in his teens, Gabe is on the right track. 

Increased brain connectivity has also been found in people who do activities using fine motor skills like playing musical instruments. 

The researchers say running also takes complex thinking, as athletes navigate or plan where to run or how to keep balance.   

 

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