We all know trail running to be a wonderful activity for increasing your physical health. But can it make you smarter as well? More studies are showing that both physical activity and being outside can improve mental cognition...perhaps we have found the ultimate combo!
The NY Times recently published an article citing a recent study by the National Institute of Health that had isolated a fascinating protein called cathepsin B. This protein occurs naturally in muscle cells during aerobic activity, and is believed to be a contributor to how muscles recover. Now they are understanding it also helps with neurogenesis, the formation of neurons in the brain. In tests run in Germany (literally "run" in this case), runners were found to have higher levels of cathepsin B then their sedentary counterparts, and those levels were directly correlated to improvements on memory and thinking. When mice were bred to not have cathepsin B and made to run, they quickly lost the use of new skills, so this protein could be key. Running long distances might even double the rate of neurogenesis, according to some doctors.
Being outside has also shown to improve brain activity. In a 2012 study by Ruth Ann Ashley, people who spent long periods of time in nature were able to improve their scores on creativity and reasoning tests by a whopping 50%. Another study in 2010 showed positive effects from the outdoors in as little as five minutes. This on top of the fact that taking long walks outside can boost your immunity by 46%.
Of course, there's a good chance I'm just looking for studies that back up my own belief that trail running is amazing. I should stop Googling and get outside and run!