This Is What Exercise Does to Your Brain


By Dana G Smith 2019

Exercising can keep up healthy and even make us smarter and happier.

“Working out can enhance memory, speed up reaction times, improve attention, and alleviate depression.”

Working out can increase the connections between our brain cells and important hormones and neurochemicals. It affect the area in our brain called the hippocampus, which is the mood and memory hub for organs.

“Every time you work out, your muscles, fat cells, and liver release a variety of molecules into the bloodstream. Some of these molecules circulate through the body and travel up to the brain, where they cross the blood-brain barrier. Once inside, they trigger a cascade of beneficial changes that can make you feel sharper and happier.”

Exercise helps the release of a growth hormone: BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). It’s crucial for the basic learning and memory in the brain.

“BDNF helps the brain build new connections, or synapses, between neurons — a process called synaptic plasticity that is thought to be the foundation for learning. Cells communicate through these connections both within and across areas of the brain. For example, neurons in the hippocampus create synapses with cells in the prefrontal cortex, another region that significantly benefits from exercise. The prefrontal cortex is where a lot of our higher-level executive functions originate, like decision-making and attention, processes that are also improved with exercise.”

“Exercise also changes the brain’s network of blood vessels. More blood flow in the body from exercise corresponds to more blood flow in the brain, as well as the rise of a blood vessel-specific molecule called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). “

What type of exercise is best for your brain?

“Julia Basso, a senior research associate in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise at Virginia Tech, says people who experience the biggest gains in their fitness show the biggest cognitive changes, suggesting higher-intensity workouts provide extra benefit. However, the mood boosts occur no matter the intensity of the activity.”

For mood change, one can simply achieve by going for a walk, but for cognitive improvements,  you will need higher intensity training.

“In practical terms,” Basso says, “the best exercise regimen is going to be one that you’re enjoying and that can get you to go back the next day.”

We have all known that exercising can bring a lot of benefits, but they’re still are a large number of individuals who don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity each day. Just like Basso said the best workout is the one that people stick to. I have concluded a couple of reasons why people are not exercising. It could be because of the boredom, the financial burden, the fear of being an exercise beginner, and so on. Therefore, knowing the benefit of how exercising changes your mood and improves your cognition is just the first step. The next question is how do we make people develop a habit to stick.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here