Long Sessions of Cardio are Good for You … Body and BRAIN!

WELLNESS--Exercise of all types is your friend. Research shows that it helps with insulin resistance, inflammation, and lowers incidence of stroke and heart attacks. Of course we can’t forget the added benefit of looking better due to working out. Besides all these great advantages, research also shows that long sessions of cardio also cause brain growth known as neurogenesis (the generation of neurons). 

In a study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä they used lab rats to study the correlation between exercise and neurogenesis in the brain, specifically the hippocampus. 

The study showed rats that ran on the wheel for the longest periods of time experienced the greatest improvement in the neurogenesis of the hippocampal region. Rats that did strength training alone with no cardio did not show any change in that same brain region. 

The rats that spent the most time on the wheel were the same rats that had the greatest rate of neuronal brain growth. It’s important to note that these rats chose to run on the wheel which is significant because it points towards the possibility that the coupled exercise and neuronal improvements may occur in rats that are more genetically programmed for exercise 

The evidence was unclear as to the effect of interval or burst training, which is when one sprints or does another form of exercise to raise the heart rate to 90 to 100 percent of its maximum, then slows down and repeats. 

What we know from this study is that rats that did long sessions of cardio showed neurogenesis in the hippocampal region while rats that did strength training alone showed none. Experts say that 30 to 45 minutes of cardio 3 days a week is the magic number needed to get the brain growth. If you are way under that amount right now or haven’t started, start with 10 or 15 minutes and add 10 minutes each time you go out for a brisk walk or a jog.   

If exercise is tough for you, start a walking club at home or at work or get a walking or jogging buddy. There are so many people wanting to improve their fitness level, and simply asking one of them to join you in getting in shape can have a big impact on your body … and your brain.


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)