We all love the effects of running: more energy, better bodies and its meditative qualities. Good news: running may offer even more positive attributes. It may offer clear-cut effects on brain structure and function.
In a study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä in the Department of Psychology and Department of Biology of Physical Activity, researchers studied the effects of sustained running exercise, high-intensity interval training and resistance training on adult male rats. The training period lasted six to eight weeks in those three categories. Researchers had a control group in which the rats remained sedentary in their home cage.
Rat lines developed by collaborators at the University of Michigan were also used: Rats with a genetically high response to aerobic training (HRT) and those with a low response to aerobic training (LRT).
Results showed that the highest number of new neurons located in the medial temporal lobe of the brain–which are used in learning temporally and/or spatially complex tasks–were found in rats that ran long distances.
HRT rats that ran on a running wheel had two to three times more new temporal lobe neurons at the end of the experiment. Resistance training had no such effect. Also the effects of HIT were relatively small.
Why does this matter?
This study shows that aerobic exercise may increase the conditions you need to learn.