A model brain sits next to exercise weights. Metaphor for heavyweight intellects

How Exercise Protects Your Brain’s Health (And Makes You Smarter)

You probably know that exercise is good for your body. It can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, strengthen your bones, and prevent many chronic diseases. But did you know that exercise is also good for your brain? It can boost your mood, memory, creativity, and even protect you from dementia.

In this article, we’ll explain how exercise affects your brain and why you should make it a part of your daily routine. We’ll also give you some tips on how to get started and stay motivated. So grab your sneakers and get ready to learn how exercise can make you smarter!

How Exercise Affects Your Brain

Engaging in exercise offers benefits to the brain. It promotes blood circulation, increased oxygen supply, and enhanced nutrient delivery to the brain. These factors play a role in supporting the function and survival of brain cells.

Furthermore, exercise triggers the release of proteins and hormones that foster the growth of blood vessels and brain cells, particularly in memory related regions. One notable protein in this regard is brain derived factor (BDNF). BDNF can be likened to a natural brain fertilizer as it facilitates brain growth, adaptability and responsiveness to the surrounding environment.

Moreover, exercise has the potential to mitigate effects on the brain caused by insulin resistance, inflammation, and other detrimental factors. Insulin resistance refers to a condition where cells become less receptive to insulin, a hormone for regulating blood sugar levels. Inflammation on the hand is a system response aimed at combating infections or injuries but can potentially harm healthy tissues when excessive.

Both insulin resistance and inflammation can disrupt communication between brain cells and contribute to decline. By enhancing insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation, exercise serves as a measure or even a means of reversing these effects.

In summary, regular exercise not only supports the well being of the brain through increased blood flow, oxygen supply and nutrient delivery, but also stimulates the growth of new blood vessels and brain cells. Additionally, it helps combat insulin resistance and inflammation which can otherwise impair function.

What Are the Benefits of Exercise for Your Brain

Exercise has many benefits for your brain health and mental well-being. Here are some of them:

Mood enhancement

Engaging in activity has the potential to enhance your mood due to the release of various chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine which contribute to a positive emotional state. Endorphins, for instance, act as natural pain relievers. They can induce a feeling of euphoria. Serotonin serves as a neurotransmitter for regulating important aspects like mood, sleep patterns, appetite and social interactions. Additionally dopamine, another neurotransmitter, plays a role in controlling motivation, reward mechanisms and experiencing pleasure. You may also try mushroom complex to aid your mood.

Memory improvement

Engaging in exercise has been found to have positive effects on memory as it promotes the development of new brain cells and strengthens connections in the hippocampus. This particular area of the brain plays a role in learning and memory processes. With age and in conditions, like Alzheimer's disease, the hippocampus tends to decrease in size resulting in memory decline and cognitive confusion. Nonetheless, regular exercise can delay this shrinkage significantly, improving your capacity to create and retrieve memories.

Creativity boost

Engaging in activity has the potential to enhance your creativity by promoting enhanced blood circulation to the prefrontal cortex. This particular brain region plays a role in facilitating advanced cognitive abilities, like strategic planning, effective problem solving, sound decision making and innovative thinking. Additionally, exercise has the power to uplift your spirits and alleviate stress thereby liberating capacities and fostering increased creative ideation.

Dementia prevention

Regular physical exercise has proven to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. Engaging in exercise helps safeguard your brain from damage and degeneration. It achieves this by bolstering the thickness of your cortex and enhancing the integrity of your white matter, both of which are vital for proper cognitive function. Moreover, exercise aids in reducing the buildup of amyloid beta plaques sticky protein fragments that obstruct the gaps between brain cells, thereby hindering their communication. This accumulation of plaques is particularly detrimental in Alzheimer's disease. Exercise plays a crucial role in mitigating its impact.

How Much Exercise Do You Need for Your Brain

brain with muscular arms and dumbbells in hands. Concept of exercise, healthy mind and body

The amount of exercise you need for your brain depends on your age, fitness level, health status, and personal goals. However, a general recommendation is to follow the guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), which suggest:

  • Adults aged 18–64 years should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
  • For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.

Intensity aerobic physical activity refers to engaging in exercises that push your body enough to increase your heart rate and induce perspiration. Some examples of activities include brisk walking, cycling, swimming or dancing. On the other hand vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity involves exerting yourself to the point of heavy breathing and a significant increase in heart rate. Activities like running, jumping rope, playing soccer or high intensity interval training (HIIT) fall into this category.

When it comes to muscle strengthening activities the focus is on using resistance to work your muscles. These may involve actions, like lifting weights, performing push ups or utilizing bands. Incorporating these exercises into your routine can contribute to building and maintaining muscle mass, which in turn can positively impact your brain health.

How to Get Started and Stay Motivated

Young woman doing exercise in the gym

If you’re new to exercise or haven’t been active for a while, you might feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea of starting a regular exercise routine. Don’t worry, we’ve got some tips to help you get started and stay motivated:

Start small and gradually increase

You don’t have to go from couch potato to marathon runner overnight. Start with something that you can do comfortably and enjoyably, such as walking for 10 minutes a day or doing some stretches in the morning. Gradually increase the duration, frequency, and intensity of your exercise as you get fitter and more confident.

Choose activities that you like

Engaging in exercise doesn't need to be a tedious or distressing endeavor. It's important to select activities that align with your interests, character, preferences and way of life. Consider pursuing endeavors that genuinely captivate you. For instance if you possess a fondness for music relish dancing to your favorite songs, try a Zumba class. If your affinity lies with nature, revel in traversing hiking trails amidst landscapes or pedaling your way through picturesque parks on a bike. Should socializing be among your proclivities, immersing yourself in a sports team or fitness club can gratify that inclination. Remember, personalizing your exercise routine with activities that resonate with you will enhance its enjoyment and effectiveness.

Set realistic and specific goals

Maintaining clarity and motivation is crucial by setting goals. By simply stating “I want to exercise more ” it is more effective to specify exact objectives like “I aim to walk for 30 minutes every day” or “By the end of the month I plan to complete a 5 kilometer run, within 25 minutes.” Document your goals in writing. Consistently monitor your progress.

Reward yourself

Take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments cherishing the effort you've put into sticking with your exercise routine. Treat yourself to activities that bring you happiness like indulging in a movie you've been eager to watch, purchasing a fresh book to explore or pampering yourself with a relaxing massage. It's important however to ensure that your chosen rewards align with your health goals. Avoid actions such as indulging in unhealthy junk food or skipping a workout session. Prioritize rewards that positively contribute to your well being and progress, towards your fitness objectives.

Have fun

Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore or a punishment. It can be a source of joy and satisfaction. Find ways to make your exercise fun and enjoyable, such as listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks while exercising, playing games or challenges with yourself or others, or trying new and exciting activities.


Engaging in activity has numerous advantages, not only for your physical well being but also for your cognitive capabilities. Exercise possesses the ability to enhance your mood, bolster memory retention, foster creativity and guard against the onset of dementia. It's important to note that you needn't possess athleticism or frequent the gym excessively to experience these positive effects. Simply incorporating moderate movement into your routine is sufficient.

James Freeman


Liam Marshall, the friendly fitness coach, has spent 14 years sharing his love for sports and fitness. With degrees in sports science, he crafts workouts that fit like your favorite jeans. Beyond the gym, he organizes sports clinics and tech-savvy fitness apps that motivate people worldwide. He's all about making fitness doable for everyone, and it's not just about bodies – it's boosting confidence. In 2019, he scored the "Virginia Fitness Coach of the Year" award. Outside the fitness world, he loves family time and hikes in Shenandoah National Park. Liam's journey from a small-town fitness fan to a big-time coach is all about passion, inspiring people to see fitness as a body-and-mind thing. Catch him on Instagram to stay in the loop!