Running can change your body, but it can also change your brain. Neuroscientists have studied people who run on the treadmill to keep fit, ultra marathon runners and even several laboratory animals to study the effects of running on gray matter. We talk about this topic with Professor Daniela Lucini, Head of Exercise Medicine at Humanitas.
The thousand virtues of running
Focus, overcoming stress and improving mood as well as naturally keeping us in shape. An experiment carried out in 2018 at West Michigan University showed that running at least half an hour a day is associated with the ability to process information better. Two other studies carried out by Lithuanian Sports University and Nottingham Trent University have shown that running improves the performance of some high level mental faculties including the ability to maintain attention, to move from one activity to another and solve problems as well as defuse stress.
Running defuses recurrent, often negative, thoughts that can initiate depressive forms.
How does exercise affect psychology?
“Running releases endorphins – explained Lucini: if we think about it there is never anyone who does physical activity and then feels sad. Moreover, running helps a lot to develop personal motivation.
Choosing to practice a sport is also a great way to devote time to yourself in solitude, promoting positive reflection: “When we go to run, – continued the professor – we are giving ourselves a gift: we are finding time to devote to ourselves, to our mental and physical health. While one part of our brain is engaged in physical tasks, the other can let go of thoughts under the positive effect of endorphins. It’s also an extremely creative moment if it lasts at least 30 minutes.
Constancy counts more than duration
To keep anxiety, depression and stress at bay as well as having benefits in terms of reducing cardiovascular, oncological and weight control risks running must be practiced regularly. A very intense activity carried out occasionally does not have the same benefits as a less intense activity but carried out at least 3 times a week for half an hour.
“The ideal would be to go running at least 3 times a week for half an hour at a rate of 10 km per hour – said Lucini: of course, to do this you need preparation, you cannot improvise. For people who are not trained or in the presence of certain pathologies that do not allow them to make running their sport, the advice is to walk fast at least half an hour a day, but more than 4 times a week.