According to studies, 10 minutes of moderate-intensity running improves pleasure levels and improves brain function. A team of scientists from the University of Tsukuba in Japan aimed to determine the acute effect of a single bout of running on mood, executive function, and neural substrates in the prefrontal cortex. Twenty-six volunteers alternated between a 10-minute treadmill run at “the most popular running condition” and a 10 minute resting control session.
Before and after both sessions, the authors examined executive function using Stroop interference time from the color-word matching Stroop task and mood using the Two-Dimensional Mood Scale questionnaire. Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy, researchers evaluated prefrontal hemodynamic changes or blood flow variations while doing the Stroop task. Running resulted in significantly higher levels of arousal and enjoyment compared to the control group, as well as a much shorter Stroop interference time and an increase in oxygen-hemoglobin brain signals in the bilateral prefrontal cortex.
The researchers also discovered a “significant association” among pleasure level, Stroop interference reaction time, and the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes, which they describe as “important brain locations” for mood regulation and inhibitory control. “To our understanding, acute moderate-intensity running has the benefit of creating a pleasant mood and boosting executive function in conjunction with cortical activity in the prefrontal subregions involved in inhibitory control and mood regulation,” the scientists said. “These findings, together with prior findings with cycling, suggest that moderate running helps both cognition and a positive mood. “They also mentioned that the neurological mechanisms underlying running-induced cortical activation are unknown and that certain aspects of running may help brain activation by increasing blood flow velocity in the middle cerebral artery.
The findings “surprised” co-author Chorphaka Damrongthai and professor Hideaki Soya told to Medical News that almost all previous research had employed cycling instead of running. “Running may boost mood and executive function more extensively than other forms of exercise that do not demand as much coordination of weight-bearing activities, such as pedalling,” the researchers wrote in a statement. The study’s limited scale and the fact that the mood scale is self-reported are also potential study limitations.