5 Incredible Ways Exercise Improves Brain Function

Numerous studies have shown that exercise, particularly cardiovascular activity, has a variety of beneficial impacts on the brain.

When you think of exercising more, what trade-offs come to mind? A slimmer physique, improved cardiovascular health, maybe even the ability to turn heads in that bathing suit you’ve been dying to get into?

But have you thought about what exercise is doing for your brain?

Numerous studies have proven that exercise, particularly the kind that gets your heart pumping, has a whole host of positive effects on the brain, even to the point of enhancing its structure. Here are just five of the ways exercise improves your already miraculous brain.

1. Exercise Turns Your Brain into a Pleasure Powerhouse

Exercise stimulates a rich concoction of feel-good chemicals in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin, endocannabinoids, and norepinephrine, according to the American Psychological Association (apa.org), each of which has different roles in managing stress, enhancing feelings of wellbeing, and promoting an active interest in life. If that wasn’t enough, exercise increases the number of dopamine receptors in the brain, meaning not only is your brain producing more of these happy chemicals, but it’s also better at enjoying them.

According to the Greater Good Science Center (greatergood.berkeley.edu), exercise is so good at delivering pleasure to the brain that it’s successfully used to help patients suffering from the ravaging aftereffects of drug abuse. Additionally, it’s estimated that we all lose approximately 13 percent of our dopamine receptors each decade, says Greater Good, causing us to experience diminishing pleasure in everyday life as we age. Exercise can reverse this.

Exercise Bike

Cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart pumping is especially beneficial for your brain.

2. Exercise Stimulates Neurogenesis

Harvard Health Publishing (health.harvard.edu) reports that exercise sparks neurogenesis, or the formation of new neurons, in the brain. We’re all born with approximately 100 billion neurons in the brain, which regenerate at a fast rate in our childhoods but slow as we mature. It was once thought that this eventually stopped completely, but it’s since been proven that neurogenesis can last a lifetime.

In a study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital (massgeneral.org), doctors experimented with lab rats to see if medicine could ignite neurogenesis. While it could, the neurons died before they had any potential. But when the rats were put through courses of exercises, not only did neurogenesis take place, the neurons were healthy and strong enough to last.

3. Exercise Improves Memory and Learning

Speaking of neurogenesis, the hippocampus is one area of the brain that continues to create new neurons throughout our lifetimes, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov). The hippocampus is integral to learning and memory formation. Multiple studies have shown that adults who exercise perform better on memory, learning, and decision-making tasks than their counterparts who don’t exercise.

Exercise is one of the leading forms of therapy for people suffering from age-related dementia and (function(d, s, id){ var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.6"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

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