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Running And Its BENEFITS, As Explained By Neuroscientists

It’s official: Running can benefit you both short- and long-term, says experts.

It’s not big news when people say running brings great benefits. To be honest, it’s somewhat of a cliche by now: Running is a physical catharsis to give you some therapeutic respite and clarity of mind. Tiring yourself out to energize yourself? It might seem counter-intuitive to non-runners, but all too understood by runners. Runners know that every mile and every kilometre nourishes their body as well as their minds. It is more than an exercise. To some, it is a way to connect with themselves.

While running, some people say they get their best ideas, while others make sense of the most troubling of issues. When drugs and therapy didn’t cure Daniele Seiss’ depression, running did. After all, when you push yourself out of your physical comfort zone, your brain and emotions want to move out of theirs, too.

But what’s the science behind it?

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Extensive research and studies have shown vigorous aerobic exercise produces new neurons and increase activity in the brain – the hippocampus and frontal lobe in particular. While the former region is associated with learning and memory, the latter region is, incidentally, associated with clear thinking and emotional regulation.

Running also helps you release endorphins – the happiness hormones – as well as endocannabinoids. The latter alleviate pain and boost mood. It is widely-agreed that our brains reward us for exercising at intensities similar to those used for hunting and foraging two million years ago. Neuroscientists even describe endocannabinoids as the “don’t worry, be happy” chemical.

What does this mean to an individual?

There’s no objective measure of performance you must achieve, no pace or distance you need to reach that determines whether you experience an exercise-induced euphoria — you just have to do something that is moderately difficult for you and stick with it for at least 20 minutes.

Heck, there’s even a thing called Dynamic Running Therapy now – running or walking (or even sitting!) to kick the blues and promote a holistic sense of wellness. Trail runner and triathlete Scott Dunlap sums up his running high this way: “I would equate it to two Red Bulls and vodka, three ibuprofen, plus a $50 winning Lotto ticket in your pocket.”

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So the next time a runner chatters on about why running is so therapeutic, you have no reason not to believe them!

By Pinky Chng, April 2016 / Updated by Derrick Tan

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