If you need one more piece of motivation to get yourself off the couch and into the gym, here it is: scientists have discovered that regular endurance exercise improves cognition and protects the brain from deteriorating. Exercise, like running, produces a molecule in the brain that will slowly trigger growth in the hippocampus region. The hippocampus is the learning center of the brain that controls memory. Studies were conducted over a year on two groups of individuals: those who ran once a week vs. the control group who only performed yoga. After a year passed, they were all given spatial memory tests. The results showed that the aerobic exercise group performed better overall on the memory tasks.
So, what’s the evolutionary advantage of this? Well, most anthropologists believe that we developed bi-pedalism in order to chase down and hunt food. When you’re chasing down an antelope for hours, maybe even days across the desert, you will need to remember how to get back home. Theory suggests that the massive increase in endurance running meant that the hippocampus needed to be enlarged as well—in order to keep up with the need to remember many new locations.