TAKE THE HIGH ROAD
A runner’s high boosts more than your mood: it could put the breaks on mental decline
As a regular reader of Men’s Health, you’re likely aware that getting off your glutes and going for a run has merit beyond burning a few extra calories. The listed benefits of bipedal cardio include the growth of new neurons, and improved learning and memory.
A new study by scientists at the University of Ottawa is the latest to offer proof that what’s good for the body is great for the mind. Their research into a little-known brain chemical suggests that, as well as adding mileage to your powers of recollection, a long weekend run can help to unravel the damage of a week well lived.
They performed tests on mice with a genetic dysfunction in the cerebellum – the part of the brain responsible for the control of physical movement – that caused them to walk around in a laboured way, as well as decreasing their lifespans. However, mice that were regularly put on
a treadmill experienced a marked increase in a chemical called VGF (no, it doesn’t stand for anything), triggering ‘positive infrastructure repair’ to brain tissue that helped them move more easily and live significantly longer.
The researchers admit that they haven’t quite figured out how VGF works, or even exactly what it is. But the chemical is believed to have an antidepressant effect, linked to the release of natural opioids that provide you with a runner’s high after an hour or more of steady-state effort. Which should be sufficient to run off last night’s extra bottle of red.