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The Runner's Body - Part 4, The Central Nervous System

Posted Apr 27 2010 12:00am
Running long and hard is an ideal antidepressant, since its hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. Also, there are those hours of clear headedness that follow a long run.
~Monte Davis, Runner
Taken from Runner's World Quotes of the Day

Part 4 - The Central Nervous System


Mind Matter over Body Matter: This chapter discusses the role of the brain during running. Basically, the brain serves a protective function over the body so that we don't get injured. It is amazing how much unconscious control the mind has over the body. While the body can override mind, it is usually not in our best interest to do so.

It's All about Style: This chapter was actually kind of boring to me. There was a lot of talk about running gait and the most efficient way to run. How to hold your arms, where you should land on your feet, etc. Boooooring. I love running and I love to read about running but there are somethings written about running that just bores me to tears: running gait and reading about sneaker models. This chapter does say that just because one way is theoretically the most efficient way to run, does not mean this way works best for everyone and that sometimes quirks in our gait may be the most efficient way for us to run. This is good news because the lower half of my left leg turns out when I run and I do not want to change it for fear of injury.

The Joy of Running: This chapter validates the infamous "Runner's High" that so many of us are addicted to. While we have endorphins to thank for this, they do not deserve all of the credit. Researchers have proved this in studies where the runner's high occurred even when endorphin receptors were chemically blocked. "Beyond endorphins, exercise increases brain levels of entirely different classes of neurotransmitters that positively affect mood in other ways." Exercise has also been used (in conjunction with anti-depressants as well as without) to treat various forms of depression and anxiety effectively. Furthermore, running reduces the negative affects of stress on the body both immediately and long term. I always joked that I run for stress relief and now there is scientific evidence to back this up!

What I learned~The Runner's Low exists, just as the Runner's High does and is at least in part attributed to over training.
~"Repeated physical exertion makes our brains generally better able to learn, function, and adapt by stimulating the growth of new cells, increasing the brain's fuel efficiency, and stimulating other changes that are very much like the exercise induced changes we are familiar with in other organs, such as the muscles." I actually read an article about this in Women's Health a few months ago. I will have to dig it up and look into it further because I find it fascinating.
~Running treats mental illness so effectively because depression is actually associated with atrophy in the pre-frontal cortex and hippocampus due to brain cell death. Exercise has the ability to stimulate new brain cell growth while, anti-depressants have only a limited capacity to grow new cells.

Next up: The last part of the book: The Immune System
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