It became conventional wisdom a few years ago that was 'good for your heart is good for your head.' Many doctors had already been talking about the benefits of exercise for years but the brain conversation changed the conversation, because we could now do something for our brains! Marketers, like me definitely noticed, the same product began being offered as 'brain healthy' with very little proof. When all of this came out, I didn't think much of it. It was good advice and I was already hooked on running, so seemed mostly like a reason to keep going. It also just made sense to me, what's good for your heart is also good for your mind.
Is running good for brain?
Last month there was a study out of Finland trying to answer the question about what kind of exercise you should be doing for your brain health. After having rats do different types of activities, some lifted weight, others ran, and another were couch potatoes. The scientists tested all their brains and found some interesting results. They found that the brains of the rats who had run the farthest had more new neurons floating around their heads than either of the two other groups, these were adult rats. What this meant wasn't exactly clear, but it was pretty safe to conclude that running had been good the rats. They didn't find any of those new neurons in the weight lifting rats or the couch potatoes. They didn't say that lifting weight was bad, but it didn't have the same measurable improvement as running.
Running Further = Smarter?
Those who were doing the study were not willing to say you would definitely have the same affects in humans. But they did say there might be a similar mechanism for humans, though it's too early to say. It's good to point out that there has been quite few studies that have been done in rats and then found to not work in humans. Rats are mammals and have a lot in common with humans, but they are not exactly the same physically as us, so it can be hard since science can have a breakthrough in rats and not have it translate to humans at all.
It isn't even remotely scientific, because it's my body and I'm not a scientist, but I think we might have a similar biological process to the rats. Running is one of the best stress relieving activities I know about. It totally clears your head better than anything else and helps me focus. I'm not sure if it makes me smarter but it definitely can't hurt the blood flow to the brain and maybe time will prove it grows brain cells, only time will tell.