A runner’s high and burned calories aren’t the only perks of your workout. New science says that jog in the park might also be improving your overall mental clarity. Here’s how.
Do you find it easier to work through an issue while on the run? Does inspiration most often strike after a satisfying workout? These brain-clearing effects are not imagined. New research is constructing a more complete picture of the varied and profound ways that exercising your body changes the brain, including promoting a positive outlook, better problem solving skills, a deeper sense of calm, improved recall, and heightened cognitive abilities.
If you deal with daily stress (who doesn’t?), this kind of mental clarity isn’t just a boon. It’s also a vital part of your ability to function and perform in important life roles—whether you’re a parent, professional, or caregiver. Because stress has a way of clouding judgment, attracting negative thoughts and intense emotions, it can crowd out the ideas and solutions you need at that moment to address the stressful situation at hand. In fact, starting your day with exercise has lasting benefits that can help you better manage emotions, think more strategically and remember things all day long.
How does it work? Exercise creates new neurons, increases blood flow, and regulates hormones. Harvard psychology professor Emily E. Bernstein, Ph.D., noticed what most of us experience after a morning run: She was a in a better mood, could think more clearly and work more effectively throughout the rest of her day. To satisfy her personal and professional curiosity about how running helps to process negative emotions, she initiated a study that was recently published in the journal Cognition and Emotion. The study involved 80 subjects, half whom ran for 30 minutes while the other half stretched, after which they all watched a particularly sad and emotional film clip. Those who had run overcame their sadness brought on by the film clip much quicker than those who had merely stretched. Continue reading >>