Here’s What Happens To Your Brain When You Run Just 10 Minutes a Day

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It’s 3 p.m., and it feels like your brain has left the building. You’re not alone; not only is the afternoon slump a real thing, but the past two years have also been like swimming through a hellscape of cortisol. We’re all feeling it, and our brains are tired. While there’s no quick fix for the immeasurable, soul-crushing burnout many of us are experiencing, there are little things we can do to get through. One of those science-backed, recently researched methods is actually running. And not like, marathon-training running—just 10 minutes of casual running can do the trick.

In fact, a study from the University of Tsukuba in Japan was just published in December of 2021, in which researchers found “as little as ten minutes of moderate-intensity running could benefit mental health.” What’s that, you say? A 10-minute fix to make my mental health not so terrible?

It’s true. In fact, the study’s title is “Minimal effort required: A ten-minute run can boost brain processing.” Minimal effort and our brains feel better? Oh, hell yeah.

“In study participants, both mood and cognitive functions improved, and the activation of bilateral prefrontal subregions associated with cognitive function and mood also increased,” the study reports. It asserts that—as many of us already knew—exercise can be go-to way to support positive mental health. Though we learned this from Elle Woods in 2001, it’s nice to see that we don’t need to go ham on the megaformer for hours on end or run six miles every day. And we don’t need to do an aggressive sprint, either… Those 10 minutes of running in the study were moderate-intensity running.

This again cements the idea that a little really does go a long way. We don’t need to hold ourselves to the 45-minutes-to-an-hour standard, especially if we’re in an anxiety-and-depression-induced exercise slump. Give yourself a five minute walk one day, build into a 10-minute jog the next day. Just get up, get out, and move … however long you can. In the words of Paul Rudd à la Forgetting Sarah Marshall, “do less.”

If running isn’t in the cards for you due to an injury, physical limitation, weather restraints, or… you hate it, then consider some other form of moderate-intensity cardio. Hop on that pandemic-Peloton, or try a quick no-equipment workout. Remember: moderate intensity, not HIIT! You should be able to breathe and sing the happy birthday song.

Good luck out there, champ.

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Tags: Running

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