Probably most people who run have had their sanity questioned more than once. Cold, dark, wet, evenings and you’re going for a run? Are you crazy?
Well, actually, no. Of course, as runners, we know the great effect running can have on our mental state. But how many of us know that running can really be making us smarter? Reviewers working at University of Otago, New Zealand, have been looking at the importance of exercise in maintaining and even improving mental ability throughout life. Their study, Benefits of regular aerobic exercise for executive functioning in healthy populations, offers good news for those who exercise regularly.
The conclusion of the review states ‘studies indicate that regular aerobic exercise can improve task switching, selective attention, inhibition of prepotent responses, and working memory span‘. The emphasis of the studies reviewed relates to brain functioning with increasing age; there appears to be little data on how exercise affects brain functioning of children and young adults. However, the reviewers mention that in children, working memory capacity is shown to benefit from chronic exercise.
So this is all good news for anyone who runs — whatever their age. It’s nice to know we are not crackers after all, or at least it’s not the running that’s made us so.