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We all know that running has plenty of good-for-you benefits. What you might not know is that it may also up your self-control when it comes to food cravings.

Rozalynn S. Frazier
September 29, 2014

We all know that lacing up those sneaks and pounding the pavement has plenty of good-for-you benefits: Running lowers your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Check. Boosts your mood. Check. Tempers stress. Checkity-check. Oh, and let's not forget about sculpting some seriously sexy legs. (I refer you to pretty much any pro female runner ever!) What you might not know is that it may also up your self-control when it comes to food cravings.

Past research has suggested that running can enhance the function of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)—a part of the brain that is responsible for short-term memory and executive processes such as thought and action.

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In a new study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers wanted to see what happened if they did the opposite, and reduced the function of the DLPFC. They recruited 21 women ages 19 to 26 who said they were prone to cravings for treats, such as chocolate or chips. The researchers used a magnetic field (generated by a coil placed on the surface of the head) to dampen the DLPFC and found that after the treatment, the women had stronger cravings and chowed down on more junk food than they did after a sham treatment (the coil was placed on the head but wasn't turned on.) This was true even though they were also offered healthier options—after the treatment they couldn't seem to resist the calorie-laden treats.

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The researchers, from the University of Waterloo in Canada, theorize the DLPFC is a key area of the brain that can help you resist cravings for snack foods. And, as luck would have it, previous studies have suggested that short bursts of aerobic exercise (running included!) increases blood and oxygen flow to this part of the brain, as well as self-control in folks ages six through 35. In other words, exercise can help you crush those pesky cravings.

Sounds like the perfect reason to get moving to us.

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