Does Running Literally Clear Your Mind?

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Originally posted on June 10, 2014.

Many people run to enjoy better health, lower stress, and a slight endorphin buzz. But does running also zap our memories?

To find out, researchers traded in their lab coats for workout clothes and put some adult guinea pigs on a serious running schedule. Others guinea pigs were assigned to a couch potato condition. Next, they tested how well the pigs remembered situations that used to terrify them.

What happened? The runners forgot their fears. Faced with the prospect of painful electric shock, the runners fearlessly galloped. The couch potatoes cowered.

This study might change how you respond the next time you hear a runner say, “I run to clear my head.”

About the Author
C. Nathan DeWall is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Social Psychology Lab at the University of Kentucky. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from St. Olaf College, a Master’s Degree in Social Science from the University of Chicago, and a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Florida State University. DeWall received the 2011 College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award, which recognizes excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching. In 2011, the Association for Psychological Science identified DeWall as a “Rising Star” for “making significant contributions to the field of psychological science.”