Going for an early morning run could help to keep you alert for the rest of the day, scientists claim.
Part of the brain responsible for decision-making and planning is activated during a jog, a study found.
It is known that playing a musical instrument can stimulate the same region - the frontal cortex - but this is the first time scientists have linked it to running.
While the new research also found it helped to improve memory, attention spans and kept the senses sharp.
Researchers from the University of Arizona studied 11 competitive, male runners aged between 18 and 25 and another 11 young men who said that they had not exercised in the past year.
They focused on men because it is difficult to study women due to the effects of the menstrual cycle on their minds and bodies.
Questionnaires and mathematical formulas were used to figure out the men's physical activity levels and estimate their aerobic fitness.
They then had each volunteer lie in an MRI scanner while the machine measured levels of activity in their brains.
It turned out that the runners' brains showed increased connectivity in areas of the brain needed for higher-level of thought.
But the brains of inactive men didn't show quite the same levels.
Increased connectivity between brain regions is known to improve memory, the ability to multi-task.
And interestingly, there was less brain activity in the part of the runners' brains that indicate lack of focus and mind wandering.
'To me, this suggests that running may not be such a simple activity after all,' said Professor Gene Alexander, who co-led the study.
'It requires complex navigational skills plus an ability to plan, monitor and respond to the environment, juggle memories of past runs, and also continue with all of the motor activities of running, which are very complicated.'
The study cannot prove that running actually caused the differences in the men’s thinking, only that runners had certain patterns of thought.
And it is unclear whether running, alone, has these effects, or if other endurance sports, like cycling and swimming, would be similar.
The findings were published in the journal, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.