, Salem, MA

November 16, 2013

On the Run: Studies show running exercises your brain, too

On the Run
Jay Kumar

---- — The benefits of running go far beyond physical fitness. Sure, if you stick to a regular running regimen, you’ll improve your cardiovascular function, you might lose some weight and you’ll feel better in general.

But recent research shows that running may actually give your brain a workout as well.

Several studies released earlier this week at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego touted the benefits of running and exercise for the brain. The studies found that physical exercise can ease depression, slow down age-related memory loss and prevent Parkinson-like symptoms, according to NPR’s Shots health blog.

In one of the studies, researchers studied rats and found that those that ran on a treadmill for at least four months performed better in memory tests as they grew older. The rat runners also had more blood vessels and white matter in their brains than the non-running rats.

The researchers also found that exercise helped rats reverse bradykinesia, a slowing of movement that affects more than half of people who live to be 85 or older. Elderly rats that used a treadmill for 12 consecutive days had improved mobility, according to a Louisiana State University study. This could be because the exercise raises levels of dopamine, a brain chemical that aids movement.

And a University of Newcastle study of a dozen people aged 15-to-25 in Australia found that exercise relieves depression. The participants had been diagnosed with depression but after 12 weeks of exercise, 10 of the people were no longer categorized as depressed.

As has been noted previously in this space, there are plenty of studies that can be used to highlight the benefits and harm caused by running. However, as a frequent runner, I can attest to the mental benefits of running. Whether they can be legitimately measured, I’ll leave up to the scientists. But even when I don’t feel particularly well physically, going for a run is a great way to clear my mind and generally just blow off steam.

It doesn’t even matter if it’s not a great run. There’s always a feeling of accomplishment after finishing a run, no matter how long or short it is. And when for whatever reason I’m unable to get out for a planned run, I’m not going to deny that I get a little cranky. Running can be an important release valve.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether running provides the added brain benefits touted in these studies. I’m still going to be out there on the roads. But if we can exercise and improve brain function at the same time, so much the better.


Starts and stops:

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and there are local races on Thanksgiving Day if you’re looking to get a run in prior to the festivities.

The 10th annual Wild Turkey 5-Miler in Salem kicks off at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 28 at Salem Common. The race has grown each year and has already passed 1,200 registered entrants as of earlier this week. Visit for more information and to register online. The Lynne’s Kids 5K Fun Run/Walk is schedule for 9:30 a.m. at Rolly’s Tavern on the Square, 338 Broadway, Lynn. The race is on a flat course around Flax Pond. Contact: Lynne’s Kids at 1-508-954-8132 or for more information.

The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday to many, but it’s also known to runners on the North Shore for Gabe’s Run. This year, the 6th Annual Gabe’s Run Reunion Run is on Friday, Nov. 29 at Patton Park in South Hamilton. There are three events: a Women’s 5K at 9 a.m., Men’s 5K at 9:45 and a 1-mile Kids’ Fun Run at 10:30. Visit or contact: Jeff Pacione (Gabe’s Fund Memorial Scholarship) at 1-978-468-3224 or for more information.


On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to


Upcoming races

Saturday, Nov. 16

2nd Annual Pace for Kpelezo (Pa-lay-zo) 5K Trail Run, Mile Lane Playing Fields, Mile Lane, Ipswich, 9 a.m. Beautiful wooded trail run, included Kids Fun Run (ages 5-11). Contact: Susan Brengle (Friends of Kpelezo) at 1-978-807-2197 or

One Fund 6-mile Run and 3-mile Fun Walk, Lt. Ross Memorial/Cy Tenney Park, 36 Johnson St., Peabody, 10 a.m. Fast, flat, out-and-back course along the Independence Greenway. Visit or contact: Harry HAP Pratt (ULTRA Marketing and Public Relations) at 1-978-578-0634 or

Wednesday, Nov. 20

Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail

Thursday, Nov. 21

No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact

Sunday, Nov. 24

Lynnfield Rotary 5K Turkey Trot, 600 Market St., Lynnfield, 9:30 a.m.

Contact: Timothy J Doyle (Lynnfield Rotary) at 1-781-589-9987 or

Wednesday, Nov. 27

Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail

Visit for more race listings.