Running as a Miracle Drug

There’s more evidence that suggests that running is the closest thing to a miracle drug. More evidence shows that cardio exercise, specifically running, increases mood, strengthens the heart, and improves cognitive ability! Just by exercising 2-4 times per week with each session lasting 30-45 minutes, you'll be able to reap the benefits.

The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published a new study this month that showed that aerobic exercise has a “significant, overwhelmingly beneficial impact on the brain.” Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center looked at a sample of older people who showed signs of developing Alzheimer’s. The participants who exercised less frequently had weaker connections in their brain’s white matter -the tissue that contains millions of nerve fibers that connect other parts of the brain- and performed more poorly on cognitive tests.

This research supports the hypothesis that improving people’s fitness may improve their brain health and slow down the aging process,” Kan Ding, a neurologist with the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute and the lead author on the paper, said in a statement.

Exercise may help keep the brain young

As we age, the brain beings to work less efficiently and our memory and cognition start to falter. Regular exercise appears to help both healthy people who show normal signs of aging and for older people who are developing Alzheimer’s disease.

While researchers aren’t exactly sure how this happens, exercise could strengthen neurological pathways in our brains used to relay signals and boost the size of certain brain regions that are important for learning and storing memories. Exercising as little as twice a week can help curb some symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) that involves a few problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment.

The latest study measured how fit people were by studying their breathing and heart rate. Researchers also used brain imaging to measure the functionality of peoples’ white matter and had them take a series of cognitive tests to measure how sharp they were. Their results concluded that less fit people had weaker white matter connections and performed worse on the cognitive tests.

Working out could boost mood

In addition to protecting the brain from aging, cardio workouts “have a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress,” according to an article in Harvard’s “Mind and Mood” blog. According to a study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, it has been shown that aerobic workouts reduce levels of natural stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Activities such as running and swimming increase overall blood flow and rejuvenate our minds.

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 online issue of Business Insider.