One of your most invaluable organs is cradled within your cranium and is made up of billions of neurons. The brain is the crucial conductor of your daily life.
We rely on our brains for everything from the simplest of tasks to the most complex navigation to success. Those people who develop superior functioning are positioned with a clear advantage. Yet for years little was known about strengthening and increasing the brain's power.
In the 1990s, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies first discovered a strong correlation between exercise and brain power.
This past February, The Journal of Physiology posted a new study that builds on those findings and may prove that not all exercise is created equal when it comes to brainpower. Researchers found that various forms of exercise produce different levels of neurogenesis (growth and development of tissue) in the brain.
Running, compared to other forms of exercise in this study, reigned supreme. The more a subject ran, the more new cells were created in the brain. There was also a significant increase in neuron reserves in the hippocampus, the part of the brain in charge of memory and learning.
For me, running has long been a passion and a daily ritual. The benefits from lacing up extend far beyond measured body fat. It's a release, a stress reliever, a time to think and recharge. The highly addictive endorphin kick runners experience keeps many of us constantly craving more.
The increasing pressure for success in the business world often is accompanied by a constant, taxing mental roller coaster. Running offers an aid for mental stability and now has been shown to charge and grow your brain in ways that were otherwise unknown.
Here are four tips to build a successful running habit:
1. Fitness trackers
Fitbit, Apple iWatch, and Garmin have upped the bar on the amount of data analyzed and recorded, allowing you to mark and achieve new running goals.
Many people don't know that you can even use your iPhone without an added device by accessing the free, pre-installed Health app, which tracks your distance and movement.
As someone who loves data, these trackers have allowed me to add a level of gamification to training, keeping even the most mundane workout interesting.
Tools such as Strava provide the ability to track and globally compete with both friends and complete strangers. They also offer one of my favorite running tools for those of us who spend a lot of time traveling: crowdsourced running routes.
Every time I find myself in a new city, I fire up the app to find the best routes. It takes me off the beaten path and allows me to discover great local gems.
In addition to the traditional running apparel companies, new brands have excelled in catering to fast growing markets.
Hoka One One developed funky looking shoes specifically designed for long distance and trails. The brand, owned by Deckers, has grown at a phenomenal pace and quickly earned a spot on the feet of many trail enthusiasts, like myself.
Brands such as Oiselle and Athleta's new Sculptek recently revolutionized the world of women's running apparel with superior products that not only fit a woman's body but also have an emphasis on technical performance. In the past, many brands focused on aesthetics over performance, leaving many of us more uncomfortable from our poorly fit shorts than from the hours of interval training.
Social media has become a great outlet to get inspired by running experts. I personally follow Kara Goucher, Bart Yasso, Josh Cox, Dean Karnazes, and Lauren Fleshman (her article "I Run Like a Girl" remains a favorite).
Nothing will get you more excited to lace up and hit the pavement than hearing others talk so passionately about the sport.