RUNNING helps preserve your memory, research suggests.

Scientists found any exercise, but running in particular, protects against the negative effects of stress on the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

Associate professor Jeff Edwards, of Brigham Young University in the US, said: “Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress.

“The ideal situation for improving learning and memory would be to experience no stress and to exercise. Of course, we can’t always control stress in our lives, but we can control how much we exercise.

“It is empowering to know we can combat the negative impacts of stress on our brains just by getting out and running.”

Mr Edwards explained that inside the hippocampus memory formation and recall occur optimally when the synapses or connections between neurons are strengthened over time.

Synaptic strengthening is known as long-term potentiation (LTP) and chronic or prolonged stress weakens the synapses, which decreases LTP and impacts on memory.

The researchers divided mice into four groups: sedentary no stress, exercise no stress, exercise with stress, and sedentary with stress.

The exercise groups used running wheels over a four-week period averaging 5km per day.

Researchers exposed mice – half frequently exercising on a wheel and half sedentary – to stress-inducing situations, such as walking on an elevated platform or swimming in cold water.

After stress induction the researchers carried out electrophysiology experiments on the animals’ brains to measure the LTP.

The study found when exercise co-occurs with stress, LTP levels are not decreased, but remain normal.