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How Neuroscientists Explain the Mind-Clearing Magic of Running

https://www.thecut.com/2016/04/why-does-running-help-clear-your-mind.html

thecut.com

How Neuroscientists Explain the Mind-Clearing Magic of Running
It is something of a cliché among runners, how the activity never fails to clear your head. Does some creative block have you feeling stuck? Go for a run. Are you deliberating between one of two potentially life-altering decisions? Go for a run. Are you feeling mildly mad, sad, or even just vaguely meh?

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A clear mind

A clear mind

Running never fails to clear your head. Do you have to make a potentially life-altering decision? Go for a run. Are you feeling mad or sad? Go for a run.

A run can sometimes make you feel like a brand-new person. Research in neuroscience found a link between aerobic exercise and subsequent cognitive clarity.

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Exercise and improved memory

Neuroscience used to think that our brains got a set amount of neurons. However, studies in animal models show that new neurons are produced in the brain throughout the lifespan.

Vigorous aerobic exercise - about 30 to 40 minutes - is the only activity that triggers the birth of those new neurons. The new neurons are created in the region of the brain associated with learning and memory, partially explaining the link between aerobic exercise and improvement in memory.

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The brain’s frontal lobe

Increased activity is seen in the brain’s frontal lobe after adopting a long-term habit of physical activity. After about 30 - 40 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, studies have recorded increased blood flow in this region, which is associated with clear thinking: planning ahead, focus and concentration, goal-setting, time management.

This area is also linked to emotion regulation, allowing us to recover faster from emotions.

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Mindlessness

Mindlessness

Mindlessness - daydreaming, or getting lost in your own thoughts - is as important as mindfulness. The mind wanders because it produces a reward when measured against goals and aspirations that are personally meaningful.

Just because the benefits of losing yourself in your own thoughts are not easily measured doesn't mean they're not of value.

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Exercise, but get the timing right

When you want to learn something in particular, then physical effort does seem to help, at least in the short-term. 

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