Jog your memory: Running can help improve learning, study finds

© Carlo Allegri
Aerobic exercise such as jogging may help increase the number of neurons in the brain, improving learning abilities and memory, according to a recent study on rats. Researchers believe the findings could also be true for humans.

The lab rats in the experiment underwent a six-to-eight-week training period, which was enough to show significant results: the rats that ran voluntarily on a running wheel had two to three times more new hippocampal neurons at the end of the experiment than their sedentary counterparts. The study was carried out by scientists at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.

Resistance training didn’t show such an effect on the brain: “Only sustained aerobic exercise improved hippocampal neurogenesis [generation of neurons] in adult animals.”

“It has been unclear whether high-intensity interval training, referring to alternating short bouts of very intense anaerobic exercise with recovery periods, or anaerobic resistance training has similar effects on hippocampal neurogenesis in adulthood,” the study’s press release states. 

The hippocampus is a brain structure that plays a big role in learning, as it deals with how we memorize information. These findings possibly mean that regular workouts may lead to increased cognitive behaviour.

“It is possible that by promoting neurogenesis via sustained aerobic exercise, the neuron reserve of the hippocampus can be increased and thus also the preconditions for learning improved – also in humans,” the study says.