If you've been on this channel before, you know, I also do a show along with this show Runner's High called the Smart Athlete Podcast. I have it on every Friday, but is it a coincidence that it's a Smart Athlete Podcast? Are all athletes smart and can running in particular make you smarter?
If you haven't been on the channel before, like I said in the intro, you'll want to subscribe to check out the podcast, stay here for this show, Tuesdays and Thursdays. As I said, the Smart Athlete Podcast comes out on Fridays, where I talk to smart athletes in all kinds of different disciplines, from running to boxing to skiing and anything in between.
But what we were talking about is, can running make you smarter? Because that's what we care about here right on this show. Runner's High mean we talk about everything running. Can running make you smarter?
Now, if you didn't grow up running and you didn't have that kind of cross-country experience or track experience in high school, then you may not have had a similar experience to me. Or I guess if you did, maybe you still didn't have a similar experience to me. I'm not really sure.
My experience, though, was that, generally speaking, people that ran across country didn't really seem to matter what school you went to typically, or I guess on average tended to be the kids that were more academically inclined.
I'm not sure if that is a statement on running being something that helps you be smarter or if you're taking a group of kids that want to be physically active and just don't have the coordination to do anything with a ball. That's also a possibility and a large joke with cross-country runners and runners in general. We do the sport so we don't have to deal with the ball at all. So there's a possibility there.
But my personal experience again, completely anecdotal.
So what can I find?
I tried to find a different amount of studies that might suggest whether there is any link, and I found a fair amount of research in this area.
In 2010, there was a study published by the American College of Sports Medicine that showed among a group of I think it's two hundred and six college students because all kinds of studies are done on college students because they're a able and willing population, that there was a correlation between the amount of exercise that a student put in and their GPA. Now the key part here is correlation, right?
So did the exercise cause them to be more studious or to be more adept at college? Or is it the possibility that somebody who already has things under wraps can have time to do other things?
Because think about it, if I'm in college, I'm really having a hard time. I might be spending more time studying, which means I'm going to be spending less time exercising. And if I'm having a hard time, my GPA might be struggling.
However, if I'm doing well, I don't feel like I need to study a lot. I've got a lot of free time, then maybe I'm going to exercise more. So it's a nice kind of like back up to our our suggestion that running is going to make you smarter. Exercise is going to make you smarter when you go, Oh, what? It's correlated. There we go. But if you know anything about studies, correlation is not causation. So I had to go a little bit deeper and try to figure out, is there anything else we can find that might suggest this link?
Now, one of the other studies I found first as a present the idea that, OK, you may have heard that once we have all the brain cells that we need or have from the time we're born, we start getting new brain cells and they just die off to the majority of our life.
This is not actually true.
The brain grows and then there is a point where it reaches new maturity, where our brain is not getting new cells in all regions. However, there are a couple of regions of the brain that you do continue to get new cells in throughout the duration of your life.
In particular, the study mentions that you get new brain cells in the area that deals with learning and memory and to go further there's actually a causative effect in terms of increased blood flow through exercise and producing more new brain cells in this area.
So this study actually has a little bit better evidence to suggest that running in particular might be something that helps us become smarter. It depends on how you define smart, right? You can be really smart at your job and then not be street smart. Your book smart, but not street smart. We know colloquially. Colloquially, apparently, I can't say that word today. We know just based on the jargon that that means "OK, you're great at academics, you're great at doing things on paper", but maybe you're not going to be so great when we go out in the real world.
Does that mean that you're smart? It depends. So there are different kinds of smart, but in this particular case, we're talking about learning and memory, which means acquiring new knowledge and then storing it, which I think you can agree it's going to make use for you, no matter whether you are book smart or street smart, if you're able to learn new things and retain those things more easily. You're going to be able to adapt to your situation, regardless of the kind of skills that you need.
So I would argue that this study does point towards yes. I think that we are actually smarter because we run. But that isn't the last piece of evidence that I found.
Another study conducted on distance runners in particular found that distance runners compared to the control group of people that were not distance runners, had higher interconnectivity in the brain.
What does that mean?
What the heck am I talking about?
It means that the different regions of the brain were working together more cohesively, so we were able to connect different kinds of thinking together inside of our minds more easily. And this is where you can almost start to say yes for sure. Like. This is definitely going to be an aspect of being smart, right? Drawing parallels between disparate ideas, connecting different lines of thinking. These are things that we would say are for people that are smart. These are the things that they do.
Not only that, somebody who is creative we might consider to be pulling together disparate ideas, connecting different things, and that has to do with the interconnectivity in our brains. I'm sure I'm positive you've heard people talk about being left brained or right brained. This is more actual speech than it is a literal division in the brain. You're not, you know, just use the left part of your brain or the right. Your brain is, I think people thought that that's that's not actually the case.
But then there are people that use both, right? Who can think logically and also think abstractly at the same time. And that's what this interconnectivity comes into play is bringing these ideas together logic and creativity and keeping, you know, our different senses together. When we have an interconnectivity, we become more adaptive. You know, which in turn, means that we are going to be smarter because we're learning and remembering things through those new brain cells that we're producing via our aerobic activity. Well, enhanced by aerobic activity. And then that interconnectivity helps us apply things in a way that maybe other people wouldn't see.
Now, if you haven't been running for very long, you may think, "OK, now there's all this evidence just to have to be for young people that are running." Do I have to have been running my whole life, as I mentioned at the beginning of the video?
A lot of studies are done on college students because they're are willing, able body of people to be studied on. And that's where a lot of studies happen is on college campuses. So you see a lot of cohorts in that age group and you're seeing more and more studies on people who are older because aging and cognitive function is very important at end of life. But anyway, back to you, maybe you haven't been running for very long.
Does that mean that none of this applies to you? Well, good news. It actually still can. It's a different study published by University of Calgary or from the University of Calgary, published by the American Academy of Neurology, which showed that people who began an aerobic routine of exercise and maintained it for six months had nearly a six percent boost in overall brain function, meaning your brain works better.
Does that mean that your IQ is going to go up? Well, this is a discussion for another day, but IQ is not the only measure of intelligence, it's just one measure of intelligence. But I would suggest that if your brain function goes up, meaning you're going to work a little bit faster, things are just going to be a little bit smoother to you when you're thinking if your brain function goes up, you are able to develop that interconnectivity, which we don't know. But if you're able to develop that energy connectivity via distance running and you can learn and retain information better. All of these things, at least to me, would suggest that yes, in fact, running does make you smarter.
So do you have any questions for me? Is there anything you like answered in the future? Leave them in the comments below. I'd love to make a video just for you. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner's High.