The New York Times published “Can Running Make Your Smarter?” on 7-13-16. This article expands on previously reported research about the mental health benefits of exercise, and reports on recent research findings that are teasing out just how the brain benefits. Researchers have identified a chemical released by muscle cells after exercise, cathepsin B, that stimulates growth of neurons in the brain. In humans, higher levels of fitness are associated with higher levels of cathepsin B. One investigator is quotes as saying that human brains appear to function better when they are exposed to cathepsin B, and we make more of it when we exercise. The author concludes, “These experiments strongly suggest that while mental stimulation is important for brain health, physical stimulation is even more important.”
mhconcierge’s take: The title really should have been, “Can Running Help Your Brain Be Healthier?” Mental health professionals who seek to provide comprehensive services should be attuned to the emerging body of research in support of the mental health benefits of exercise, and pass this info on to those who we are helping.