Running Boosts Brain Activity

Why do you run? Usually it is for cardiovascular fitness. But did you know that it also can benefit your brain as well?

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Your long-term exercise program obviously has a positive effect on your body, including heart health, blood sugar control and weight maintenance. Sticking with it over time can also boost proteins that are actively involved in neuron growth, meaning that running and other intense activity is good for your brain.

Researchers with the National Institute on Aging have found that a specific protein, known as cathepsin B, which is produced in the muscles during exercise, spurs production of molecules related to neurogenesis – the growth of new nerve cells. The theory that this effect could be positive on brain health was tested on laboratory mice.

Mice who were exposed to increased cathepsin B production seemed to have better memory recall, as tested using a water maze. This falls in line with prior human studies that found that those who exercise consistently had better performance on complex recall tasks, such as drawing from memory.

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While cathepsin B itself is still an area of active research, exercise itself is just proving to be more and more of a necessary lifestyle habit – non-optional for good health.

"Overall, the message is that a consistently healthy lifestyle pays off," says senior author Henriette van Praag. "The study supports that the more substantial changes occur with the maintenance of a long-term exercise regimen."

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Journal Reference:
Moon et al. Running-Induced Systemic Cathepsin B Secretion Is Associated with Memory Function. Cell Metabolism, 2016 DOI:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.05.025

Photo Credit: By ms4denmark – via Wikimedia Commons

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