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October 11, 2018

15 minutes of running beats meditation in boosting mental sharpness and mood

According to one gasp-inducing study

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Person running along a trail in Philly Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

For some, running is most certainly a meditational experience — it’s a great way to clear your mind and unwind after a long day (or prepare for a long day ahead). The mood-boosting and brain-clearing benefits are very similar to those of meditation. And now there’s a new study suggesting that strapping on your sneaks is actually *more* beneficial to your brain than meditation.

This gasp-inducing study was published in Acta Psychologica, and discovered that just 15 minutes of running, or about two miles in distance, can improve concentration, attention span and mood better than a round of meditation.


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As Runner’s World reports, researchers gathered just over 100 students from the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne in France to take two cognitive tests: “the Vigor-Activity (VA) subscale of the Profile of Mood States, which assesses levels of perceived energy, and the Trail Making Test (TMT), which is split up into two parts and evaluates processing skills.”

The students were then split into two test groups. One group did 15 minutes of jogging at a “moderate intensity” while the other group completed 15 minutes of “relaxation/concentration,” which included mental “exercises such as guided imagery, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing,” per Runner’s World.

After their sessions, both groups repeated the same cognitive tests, producing data that undeniably showed that the "runners" scored, on average, two points higher on the TMT test, while the "relaxers" scored an average of six points lower, according to Runner’s World.

But why did the runners experience more cognitive benefits than the meditation group? Did they, perhaps, get too relaxed? Runner’s World was wondering the same thing, so they asked Fabien Legrand, Ph.D., senior lecturer of psychology at the French university and the study’s lead author, who said:

“The changes in cognition brought about by exercise could be explained in terms of indirect effects — in particular, increased feelings of energy.”

Which basically means that running peps you up, making you more alert and quick-minded, while the relaxation group calmed their minds with meditational exercises and reported feeling groggy afterward.

While the benefits of meditation most certainly serve their purpose — especially in reducing anxiety and inflammation (and so much more) — this study suggests that going for a run may be more helpful to get your mind in focus.

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