It’s the staying power, she loves my stamina? But it’s not the sweat; she hates the musty smell of dirty gear. Perhaps it’s the build up, the stretching, the manoeuvring, the concentration and the attention to detail. Can she sense the rising heart rate in anticipation, the blood rushing to pulsating muscles? She sometimes seems completely unaware its happening, and occasionally its over before she even realises. I’m not sure what it is about it that makes me more attractive to my wife, but I’ll take all the help I can get. She denies it but the research has proven – my commitment to running makes me more attractive to my wife. And it’s not because of the side effects running has on appearance, on which I’m still waiting. Apparently running regularly is a sign of my male resourcefulness, athleticism, intelligence and hunting prowess…….. Hear me ROAR! (Longman et al., 2015). This is a relic of over 2 million years ago, and it taps into the subconscious animal mind of women. It echoes of a time when females picked their partners based on their capability to give them offspring and then have the capacity to feed them– the ability to hunt and gather (Smith, 2004). Even though now, in modern Western society; increasing income may have a more considerable impact than physical prowess on the desirability of a male as a partner (Nettle & Pollet, 2008; Pollet & Nettle, 2008).
Fortunately running and exercise not only makes people more attractive, it has benefits for brain function too – it makes people smarter. Science shows running and physical activity improves learning and memory in people of all ages. Furthermore, maintaining a good level of fitness may prevent or delay age-related cognitive decline (Hillman et al., 2003; Winter et al., 2007; Tomporowski et al., 2008). Running increases the number of new neurons in the brain sharpening thinking skills and improving mood, especially as we age. Aerobic exercise also makes people more efficient, potentially leading to greater career success. Workers increase their ability to meet the demands of their working day by 15 percent after they exercise – they can work harder after they exercise (Coulson et al., 2008). And this is why large companies have onsite gyms!!
Aerobic exercise appears to have a focusing effect on the brain, allowing the mind to be more attentive (Smith et al., 2010). But for me running is the opportunity to be uninterrupted, nobody else’s thoughts or words invade. It is an assured space away from a world where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be unreachable. More than anything, however, running provides sanity; a time in every day that brings focus and time to make mental progress and sort out issues. Even when running in a group, the weekly long run is alone time, the time when I do my most productive thinking. Thinking about nothing in particular, but the mind naturally finds topics to focus on. It is usually things that have been avoided all week. Life changing decisions are made and planned whilst running. Non Runners sometimes dismiss running as a way of life but for me it’s a means of appreciating and understanding it. The positive effects of running on my mood and my outlook have been clear to me and my family, as with most runners. The chance that running may make me more attractive and intelligent is just a welcome benefit!
Coulson JC, McKenna J & Field M. (2008). Exercising at work and self‐reported work performance. International Journal of Workplace Health Management 1, 176-197.
Hillman CH, Snook EM & Jerome GJ. (2003). Acute cardiovascular exercise and executive control function. Int J Psychophysiol 48, 307-314.
Longman D, Wells JC & Stock JT. (2015). Can persistence hunting signal male quality? A test considering digit ratio in endurance athletes. PLoS One 10, e0121560.
Nettle D & Pollet TV. (2008). Natural selection on male wealth in humans. Am Nat 172, 658-666.
Pollet TV & Nettle D. (2008). Driving a hard bargain: sex ratio and male marriage success in a historical US population. Biol Lett 4, 31-33.
Smith EA. (2004). Why do good hunters have higher reproductive success? Hum Nat 15, 343-364.
Smith PJ, Blumenthal JA, Hoffman BM, Cooper H, Strauman TA, Welsh-Bohmer K, Browndyke JN & Sherwood A. (2010). Aerobic exercise and neurocognitive performance: a meta-analytic review of randomized controlled trials. Psychosom Med 72, 239-252.
Tomporowski PD, Davis CL, Miller PH & Naglieri JA. (2008). Exercise and Children’s Intelligence, Cognition, and Academic Achievement. Educ Psychol Rev 20, 111-131.
Winter B, Breitenstein C, Mooren FC, Voelker K, Fobker M, Lechtermann A, Krueger K, Fromme A, Korsukewitz C, Floel A & Knecht S. (2007). High impact running improves learning. Neurobiol Learn Mem 87, 597-609.