Magazine article Work & Family Life

Running Changes the Brain in Surprising Ways

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Running Changes the Brain in Surprising Ways

Article excerpt

We don't think of running as a cerebral act. After all, we learned to run as kids, at first falteringly, with some occasional spills. And, since then, we've probably not given much (or any) conscious thought to how to run.

A recent study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience suggests that running requires higher level thinking than you might imagine. University of Arizona neurologists found that the brains of competitive distance runners had stronger connections in areas known to aid in "sophisticated cognition" than the brains of healthy but sedentary people.

In particular, they found more connectivity between parts of distance runners' brains that support working memory, multitasking, attention, decisionmaking and the processing of visual and other sensory information. In other words, there's more to running than mindlessly placing one foot in front of another.

This builds on previous research findings that mastering a complex activity can improve the workings of the brain. For example, playing an instrument requires refining fine motor skills while also engaging one's memory, attention, forward planning and other executive functions of the brain. …

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