Running can help boost your brain power and help you overcome a forgetful memory, a Cambridge University study has suggested.
Jogging a couple of days a week was shown to stimulate the brain, which led to a big impact on mental ability, university neuroscientists discovered.
The study, conducted with the US National Institute on Ageing in Maryland, found that a few days of running led to the growth of hundreds of thousands of new brain cells in a region that is linked to the formation and recollection of memories.
Running improved the ability to recall memories without confusing them, a skill that is crucial for learning and other cognitive tasks, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It could lead to new ways of potentially slowing down deterioration of mental ability which can affect many people in old age.
“We know exercise can be good for healthy brain function, but this work provides us with a mechanism for the effect,” said Timothy Bussey, a behavioural neuroscientist at Cambridge and the study’s senior author.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, 54, is know to be a keen runner and took up the excercise after marrying model and singer Carla Bruni.
The study followed two groups of mice, one of which had unlimited access to a running wheel throughout, whey they clocked up an average of 15 miles (24km) a day, while the other mice formed a control group.
During the brief training sessions, they were placed in front of a computer screen which displayed two identical squares side by side.
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According to the study, if they nudged the one on the left with their nose they received a sugar pellet reward.
If they nudged the one on the right, they got nothing.
They were then subjected to a memory test where the more they nudged the correct square, the better they scored.
The running mice scored nearly twice as high as the control group during the memory test, the scientists discovered, while the greatest improvement occurred in the later stages of the experiment, when the two squares were so close they nearly touched.
“At this stage of the experiment, the two memories the mice are forming of the squares are very similar,” Dr Bussey told The Guardian.
“It is when they have to distinguish between the two that these new brain cells really make a difference.”
The scientists also tried to confuse the mice by switching the square that produced a food reward.
But the running mice were quicker to catch on when scientists changed them around, the study concluded.