Running for 10 minutes may improve brain function, study finds

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Experts say a brief spurt of physical activity may improve mood and overall wellness

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Tsukuba may have some positive news for runners. According to their findings, running for as little as 10 minutes may improve consumers’ brain function, including cognitive function and mood. 

“The current study reveals that a 10-minute single-bout of moderate-intensity running elicits a positive mood and increased executive function by enhancing arousal levels coincidentally with activation in prefrontal subregions involved in mood regulation,” the researchers wrote. “To this end, these findings are valuable in supporting moderate running’s effect on mental health since running is an easily accessible form of exercise requiring minimal equipment and sport structure.” 

A short run comes with brain benefits

To understand how running can affect consumers’ brain function, the researchers had 26 participants involved in a running-based experiment. In one trial, participants ran on a treadmill for 10 minutes. Before and after running, they completed cognitive and executive functioning assessments and answered questions about their mood. The researchers then had the participants take the cognitive and mood tests again after completing a 10-minute rest period. 

After comparing the test results from before and after the short run and resting period, the researchers learned that the burst of exercise was beneficial for both cognitive function and mood. The team says the reason is tied to better blood flow in the prefrontal cortex of the brain.

“Given the extent of executive control required in coordinating balance, movement, and propulsion during running, it is logical that there would be increased neuronal activation in the prefrontal cortex and that other functions in this region would benefit from this increase in brain resources,” said researcher Hideaki Soya. 

The researchers hope health care providers use this new information to provide help to patients who may be struggling with their mental health.

“That insufficient physical activity leads to physical and mental illness has been recognized as a global issue,” the researchers wrote. “It is important to demonstrate a minimal effective exercise that will benefit both mental and physical health.” 

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