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Training & advice

Do runners have healthier brains?

It would appear that we do and there have been several recent studies that suggest so.

In 2010 Scientists at the University of Cambridge and the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, USA, found mice that exercised more performed better on memory tests.

These mice also grew more new cells in a part of the brain linked to memory than those which did not exercise.

The researchers took two groups of mice and studied them for 105 days. The exercising group ran more than 12 miles a day on an exercise wheel whilst the other group weren't allowed to exercise.

The mice were trained to touch a boxes on a computer screen to get food pellets and treats. The researchers then made the task more difficult by moving the boxes around.

The running mice remembered which box was which with greater success than the non-running mice.

The researchers also found that the running mice had more than twice as many new brain cells than the non - running mice by the end of the experiment.

Recently scientists in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of South Carolina studied two groups of mice. Again, one group were allowed to run daily (one hour per day) on an exercise wheel and the other were denied this privelege. After eight weeks they looked at the brain cells of the mice and saw that the active mice had new mitochondira in their brain cells. Mitochondria provides cells with more energy and helps us function better.

Both of the above studies have been carried out on mice but scientists in Ireland have recently carried out a study on people as has been reported in the New York Times. This involved them taking part in a memory test. The men who took part in the study were asked to memorise the names of strangers. One group then rode stationary bikes at an increasingly strenuous pace and the other group sat quietly. Afterwards the exercising group performed better on the memory test.

This is great news for runners. We know that running, combined with a good, balanced diet keeps our bodies healthy and now it appears that it keeps our minds sharp too.