Use 10-minute runs to sharpen your cognitive skills and help turbo-charge your workday performance in 2024…

Regular 10-minute power runs are the secret to boosting your mood and mental performance at work, and unlocking a more productive you in the new year. Just incorporate them into your regime like you do with your daily stretching exercises.

A short run triggers an increase in blood flow to the prefrontal cortex: the area of the brain associated with executive function, such as planning, decision-making, organising your thoughts, working towards a goal, and short-term memory. Put simply, it’s the part of your brain your boss pays you to use.

According to research by experts at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, subjects who went on a short ten-minute run showed better cognitive reaction and brain-processing skills, and also reported better moods, than a control group.

These findings, published in Scientific Reports, were in addition to the enhanced blood flow observed in the prefrontal cortex. Researchers monitored this using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).

“Given the extent of executive control required in coordinating balance, movement, and propulsion during running, it is logical that there would be increased neuronal activation in the prefrontal cortex and that other functions in this region would benefit from this increase in brain resources,” says Professor Hideaki Soya, a biochemist in the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences at the University of Tsukuba.

We already knew that short bursts of exercise can boost our mental and physical health, but this study illuminates the specific area of the brain activated by running.

So whether you go for a ten-minute jog in the morning, enjoy a lunch-time dash around the block or head out for a quick run before an important meeting, start turbo-charging your brain with power plods.

Quick tip for marathon runners

“Plan long-term,” says Phil Sesemann, a British marathon runner and adidas ambassador – with a top-10 finish at the 2022 London Marathon. “Don’t just throw yourself into a marathon that’s coming up in six or 12 weeks’ time, because it’s a big toll on the body. Running a marathon should be a step into making running part of your everyday life – and, crucially, it should be something you enjoy doing.

“Running can be a life-long sport: it’s something you can enjoy and see the benefits from for such a long time.”

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