Originally published Dec. 21, 2021 by Canadian Running.
By Brittany Hambleton
We’ve known for a long time that regular physical activity is good for our bodies, but in the last couple of decades, more and more research has come out extolling the benefits of exercise for your brain.
In the video below, neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki describes exercise as the most transformative thing you can do for your brain, and details how moving your body on a consistent basis can protect this important organ from disease.
In the video, Suzuki explains how even just one workout increases the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain like dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline, which results in an improved mood. This single workout also improves your ability to shift and focus your attention, which lasts at least two hours after your workout is finished.
She explains exercise also has long-lasting effects on the brain. Regular physical activity actually produces new brain cells in the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is responsible for creating long-term memory. Not surprisingly, this improves your long-term memory. And those feel-good neurotransmitters she mentioned earlier? If you exercise regularly, those remain elevated for the long term, too, which is great news for runners.
Finally, Suzuki says regular exercise has a protective effect on the brain because it directly improves the prefrontal cortex and the temporal lobe (where the hippocampus is located). Both of those regions are the most susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases, so your daily run isn’t just improving your physical health, it’s lowering your risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
So on the days when you’re having trouble motivating yourself to get out the door, don’t just do it for your body – do it for your brain.