Short Run May Improve Brain Function, Study Says

Running is undoubtedly one of the simplest methods to get the benefits of physical exercise since it is inexpensive and readily available.

Running promotes cardiovascular health, muscular strength, and bone density. In addition to these physical advantages, running has also been linked to enhanced mental health.

A team of researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan recently concluded a small-scale study demonstrating that 10 minutes of jogging at a moderate intensity enhances mood and brain function.

Imaging of the brain revealed that running boosted blood flow to numerous regions of the prefrontal cortex compared to not running. The prefrontal cortex plays a crucial role in regulating emotion and other processes.

The study’s findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

What effect does running have on the brain?

The brain must interpret vast volumes of sensory information to coordinate running movements while maintaining bodily equilibrium. For this reason, research has shown that running activates the prefrontal brain.

Moreover, the mechanical impact of running boosts blood circulation, which may help improve brain function.

Scientists have also studied the up-and-down head movement that happens as animals run. According to their findings, this motion may regulate serotonin receptors in the prefrontal cortex. This may contribute to an improvement in mood and cognitive control.

Running versus resting

In the latest study, the researchers examined executive brain function and mood after a 10-minute treadmill exercise. The researchers then matched these results to brain function and emotion during rest.

The researchers evaluated brain function using the Stroop task, which presents individuals with color words printed in incongruent hues. For example, the word “red” may appear with blue-colored letters.

Instead of reading the word, the participants must identify the color of the letters as rapidly as possible.

While the individuals conducted the Stroop task, the researchers monitored blood flow variations using near-infrared spectroscopy, a noninvasive means of optical imaging, to determine brain activity.

When a certain region of the brain is stimulated, the blood volume in that region varies rapidly. Spectroscopy in the near-infrared detects and quantifies these variations.

The participants also completed a Two-Dimensional Mood Scale Trusted Source questionnaire before and during the running and resting periods to determine any mood changes.

What did they discover?

Compared to the control session, the jogging exercise led to a considerable improvement in mood. Specifically, the mood scale revealed increases in happiness and arousal.

People who participated in the running intervention also finished the Stroop test substantially quicker, and their bilateral prefrontal cortex had an increase in neural activity.

Medical News Today reached out to the first author Chorphaka Damrongthai and the final author Professor Hideaki Soya:

“We were astonished by the findings that 10 minutes of moderate jogging improves not just executive function but also positive mood in tandem with bilateral prefrontal activation.”

“Based on prior research, including our own,” they said, “physical exercise has been shown to enhance executive function by stimulating the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a brain region linked in inhibitory and mood regulation, without reporting a change in positive mood.”

“Almost [all] these investigations have employed cycling, not running. […] Running may engage the prefrontal brain more than other types of exercise that may not need as much coordination of weight-bearing activities, such as cycling, to improve mood and executive function.


Only 26 individuals participated in the research. A limited number of participants makes it difficult to generalize the findings to the whole community.

In addition, it is essential to remember that the mood scale is self-reported and consequently susceptible to bias. People may not always provide correct responses because they do not know or want to create a favorable impression.

There is evidence that regular exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, a crucial memory storage region of the brain. Prof. Moffat speculates that this may have contributed to the observed results in this research.

However, it is unclear from the article if the subjects engaged in regular exercise.

Prof. Moffat told MNT that she would want to see a comparison of weight-bearing (running, dancing) with non-weight-bearing (pedaling) exercise using equal levels of intensity and time durations in both younger and older groups to see whether there are differences.

According to the experts, it is crucial to show a minimally effective workout that improves mental and physical health.

Some people may find it challenging to adhere to their fitness regimes. This study’s findings are significant because understanding that even a brief run is helpful may encourage more individuals to engage in physical activity.

“To expand our results based on our many animal studies, we are researching low-intensity jogging and its positive impact on enhancing mental health,” the authors told MNT.

“We would want to encourage individuals, particularly those who are vulnerable, to maintain their physical and mental fitness utilizing our minimum exercise approach.” According to them, 10 minutes of jogging at a moderate effort is an accessible exercise requiring minimum equipment.

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