Writer’s block, creative block, or just plain burnout leaves us all feeling lethargic and hopeless when our brains just don’t seem to cooperate with the goals at hand. We know that taking breaks can boost productivity, but sometimes taking more time away from the situation is so counterintuitive that it’s easy to forget this tip.
If you don’t like spinning your wheels while you wait for your brain to refresh, ten minutes of moderate running could be all you need! In a recent study, the increased blood flow and the activation of the brain functions necessary to propel the body to run benefited participants who were given cognitive tests.
The significant improvement in cognitive function was seen on brain scans which noted more activation in both sides of the prefrontal region after the run. The participants also reported a better mood even when faced with tedious tests on their cognition (including the “say the name of the color of this word that actually spells an opposite color” test).
Not only were participants in a better mood, they performed better and actually reduced the amount of time it took to perform these complicated mental tasks. The researchers chose the color/word task (known as the Stroop test) because it requires the brain to register two separate types of information and also to block out the information that doesn’t matter.
If that just sounds like a typical day of sifting and deflecting unnecessary input at your school/home/office, then you might want to give yourself ten minutes to run and see if you can get those cognitive wheels spinning again. At the very least, a ten minute run before playing the popular family card game of Taco-Cat-Goat-Cheese-Pizza (basically a Stroop test to the max) could give you a competitive edge!
Chorphaka Damrongthai, Ryuta Kuwamizu, Kazuya Suwabe, et al. Benefit of human moderate running boosting mood and executive function coinciding with bilateral prefrontal activation. Scientific Reports, 2021; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-01654-z