As little as 10 minutes of moderate jogging is enough to boost mood and brain activity. These are the findings of the latest study exploring the relationship between physical activity and mental health.
Previous studies have primarily focused on cycling and its effects on our executive function. While cycling has its own health benefits, running involves the movement of the entire body rather than just the lower part and has played a particularly important role in the evolution of our species.
“Given exercise is medicine, the effects of drugs differ depending on the type of drug, different types of exercise such as running and pedaling should be observed to have different effects on mental health and brain activation as well,” said the study’s authors.
The new research, from the University of Tsukuba, focused particularly on the prefrontal cortex, the brain region associated with executive functions and regulating mood. The findings showed that running improved blood flow to this key part of the brain.
As part of the study, published in Scientific Reports, the scientists recruited 26 healthy participants and asked them to complete a 10-minute running session on a treadmill at moderate intensity. The team then used near-infrared spectroscopy to analyze blood flow to the prefrontal cortex as the subjects performed different tasks following the running session.
The tests revolved around the Stroop Color-Word Test, where participants are shown a word such as “green” written in red ink and asked to name the color rather than read out the word. The test is usually conducted to measure reaction times in brain processes.
According to the study, the 10-minute session of moderate jogging significantly improved response times, while substantially increasing activity in the bilateral prefrontal cortex. The subjects also reported improved moods.
“Given the extent of executive control required in coordinating balance, movement, and propulsion during running, it is logical that there would be increased neuronal activation in the prefrontal cortex and that other functions in this region would benefit from this increase in brain resources,” said study author Professor Hideaki Soya.
Study source: Scientific Reports — Benefit of human moderate running boosting mood and executive function coinciding with bilateral prefrontal activation