It looks like riding might not just make us happier, it might also make us smarter.

Let’s thank J. Mark Davis, Professor of Exercise Science (yes, there is such a thing) at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina, for that great news.

Dr. Davis’ research, published last month in The Journal of Applied Physiology, was on mice not riders, but we can extrapolate.  And we will.

Some shorthand science will help you understand what Dr. Davis was looking at and what he found.  He was looking at mitochondria (stay with me here), those tiny things that float around the nucleus of cells and help fuel cellular activity.  It’s been known for some time that muscles produce new mitochondria as a result of exercise.  But Dr. Davis discovered that exercise produces new mitochondria in the the brain as well.

True, Dr. Davis’ subjects were mice on treadmills not riders on horses, but this is excellent news for us.  Especially for those of us who are having trouble finding our keys or remembering to buy milk.

In order for their brains to benefit, the poor mice had to run to exhaustion, but luckily, Dr. Davis says he thinks we can get similar results with 30 minutes of jogging.  The Calories Burned Calculator from Health Status tells me that 30 minutes of jogging will burn 198 calories, and that I will burn nearly that many calories (183 to be exact) by trotting for the same amount of time.  So I’m imagining that a normal 45-minute to hour-long ride with warm up and cool down should keep me and my brain in business.

If you want to know how your own activities translate into calories burned, you can access the online Calories Burned Calculator here, or click my links to get the app for your IPhone or Android.