Study Reveals Running Helps Preserve Memory and Prevent Age-Related Decline


Even if you are a dedicated runner who generally loves nothing more than lacing up your sneakers and hitting the roads are trails, we all sometimes struggle with the motivation to run

In these circumstances, it can be really helpful to think about the benefits of running to give you the extra boost you need to stick with your training plan. 

There’s been an abundance of research over the past several decades that have pointed to numerous physical and mental health benefits of running.

A study published just a week ago in eNeuro has added to the pool of evidence demonstrating various benefits of running for your health.

Researchers looked at the effects of long-term running on preventing or delaying aging-related memory loss and neurodegeneration. 

Although previous research has pointed to some of the cognitive benefits of running and the potential protective effect of running on memory and preventing cognitive decline, these studies have not really looked at whether neurons that develop later in life retain the neural connectivity benefits derived by running.

an aged marathon runner running for fitness on beachside

Although this was an animal study, the researchers believe that the results are transferable to humans.

They believe that long-term running can help ensure that older neurons in the brain stay properly wired and connected, which can help prevent all degeneration and age-related memory loss.

These results are thought to be especially beneficial for neurons that develop in young adulthood.

This is because these “adult-born neurons“ seem to be modifiable throughout midlife and older adult life with exercise, in that the neurons can develop stronger connections or “circuits“ with other neurons in the brain.

These neural circuits are what help support optimal cognitive functioning and preserve memory. 

So, what does this mean in practical terms?

The findings from this study reinforce the importance of maintaining your running routine, or getting consistent aerobic exercise, throughout adulthood.

an older lady running on park sidewalk

As the authors of the research wrote, “Altogether, our findings show that long-term running wires ‘old’ new neurons, born during early adulthood, into a network that is important for memory function during aging.”

Long-term running (beginning in young adulthood and persisting with consistency throughout midlife and later life) can help maintain your cognitive health as you get older.

For more information about the many wonderful benefits of running, check out our guide here.

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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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