Asics used EEGs to prove that, yes, running makes you happier

A researcher at Kings College London saw a 58 percent reduction in cognitive stress.


It’s taken as read that exercise can make you happier, healthier and more resilient, at least if you actually enjoy running. Asics, with an eye on selling you a new pair of sneakers, recruited a researcher from Kings College London to put some numbers on those claims. Dr. Brendan Stubbs’ work explores the relationship between mental health and physical wellbeing, something Asics itself loves to talk about.

Stubbs’ project used a portable EEG from Emotiv which can be worn while moving around strapped to three elite athletes and six “everyday athletes.” That term denotes amateurs who exercise for at least 150 minutes a week but are still otherwise pretty fit folks. Each participant wore the headset at rest to develop a baseline while undergoing cognitive tests, and then exercised for 20 minutes before the tests were re-run.

The figures presented are pretty staggering, with an 18 percent increase in participants ability to relax, a 28 percent drop in rash decision making and a 29 percent improvement in stress resilience. Stubbs said that these numbers come from the EEG scans rather than self-reported by the test subjects.

He added that the EEGs also revealed a 58 percent reduction in the signs of cognitive stress, the symptoms of which are anxiety, forgetfulness and disorganization. The data also points to a 26 percent increase in the speed at which people’s brains process data, and a 21 percent improvement in memory.

Beyond the statistics, Stubbs’ research found that, for us normals, the mental health benefits of exercise were greater than for the pros. He told Engadget that he suspects that since professionals had already “mastered” their sport, they had to do less brain work while in motion. In addition, he found that runners who ran in groups saw better results than those who ran in isolation, something he wants to explore further.

Stubbs told Engadget that he’s looking forward to clarifying these results with more research and will look to see if there is an ideal workout that will help boost people’s mental health. He also wants to examine if there’s a difference between the psychological boost offered to these amateur athletes versus folks who aren’t getting the recommended minimum amount of exercise in a week.

Asics is using the research as part of its plan to encourage people to get out and exercise while we’re all sheltering in place. It’s launched the Move With The Sun Challenge, where runners encourage their friends to get out and hit the sidewalks either using RunKeeper or, you know, by buying some new sneakers.