Feeling stressed due to excessive workload? Try running for an average five kilometres daily. It may not only help ward off the stress, but also protect your memory, claims a new study. Running also helps in reducing lifestyle diseases, which account for 72.9 per cent of all deaths in the Oman, according to NCSI statistics released in 2016.
The study found that running mitigates the negative impacts chronic stress has on the hippocampus — a brain region responsible for learning and memory.
Inside the hippocampus, memory formation and recall occur optimally when the synapses or connections between neurons are strengthened over time.
That process of synaptic strengthening is called long-term potentiation (LTP). Chronic or prolonged stress weakens the synapses, which decreases LTP and ultimately impacts memory, the researchers noted.
“Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress,” said lead author Jeff Edwards, Associate Professor at the Brigham Young University in Utah in the US.
“While we can’t always control stress in our lives, we can control how much we exercise. It’s empowering to know that we can combat the negative impacts of stress on our brains just by getting out and running,” the researcher added.
For the findings, published in the journal of Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, the team put one group of mice over running wheels for four weeks (averaging five kilometres a day).
Another set of mice was left sedentary. Half of each group was then exposed to stress-inducing situations such as walking on an elevated platform or swimming in cold water. One hour after stress induction, researchers carried out electrophysiology experiments on the animals’ brains to measure the LTP.
The results showed that the stressed mice who had exercised had significantly greater LTP and memory functioning than the stressed mice who did not run.
Exercise also improves brain health and could be a lifesaving ingredient that prevents Alzheimer’s disease.
The study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease focused on a type of brain tissue called white matter, which is comprised of millions of bundles of nerve fibres used by neurons to communicate across the brain.
They enrolled more than 80 older patients at high risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease who have early signs of memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
The researchers determined that lower fitness levels were associated with weaker white matter, which in turn correlated with lower brain function.
Study participants were then given memory and other cognitive tests to measure brain function, allowing scientists to establish strong correlations between exercise, brain health and cognition. — IANS