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Running Benefits for Brain Health

Study identifies lasting effects from consistent exercise.

Running benefits for brain health

Investigators now have new insight into how running benefits brain health, movement and cognition. New York University researchers examined the influence of running on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and on dopamine levels. They discovered that when mice voluntarily exercised over 30 days, this led to increased BDNF that then triggered dopamine release in the brain area related to movement. Even after daily running stopped, the dopamine release continued for a week. Previous research has shown dopamine to play an important role in motivation, learning and memory.

“Our findings suggest that BDNF plays a key role in the long-lasting changes that occur in the brain as a result of running,” said lead study author Guendalina Bastioli, PhD, postdoctoral researcher in the department of neuroscience and physiology and NYU Langone Health. “Not only do these results explain why exercise makes you move, think, and feel better, they also show that these benefits continue even if you do not work out every day.”

While the study on brain benefits of running was conducted on mice, future studies will be conducted on humans, in particular to investigate the role of BDNF and dopamine in alleviating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The research is reported in The Journal of Neuroscience (2022; 42 [23], 4725–36).

See also: Running Improves Brain Function in Young Runners

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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