How Does Exercise Benefit the Brain?

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Exercise benefits numerous organs, including the brain.

Stereotypes in media often separate athletics from intelligence.

Those who are bright seem never to exercise.

Those who are not-so-bright work out often.

According to a recent Prevention article titled “These 5 Exercises Boost Brain Health and Improve Memory, Study Finds, this binary representation of people having intelligence or physical fitness is a false dichotomy.

Exercise can improve cognitive functioning.
Vigorous exercise like jogging can improve brain health.

The article references a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Researchers reviewed data from about 4,500 people in the United Kingdom.

Study participants wore an activity monitor all day, every day for a week.

Their mental processing, problem-solving skills, and short-term memory were then evaluated.

What did the researchers find?

The study indicated those who participated in moderate and vigorous exercise tended to have higher cognitive scores than their counterparts who primarily sat, slept, and did mild physical activity.

In fact, the drop in cognition for those who lacked exercise was between one percent and two percent.

The greatest difference was found in the executive processing functions of organization and planning.

This distinction was noticed even in those who had moderate to vigorous exercise for fewer than 10 minutes.


According to the researchers, there is growing evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of dementia and cognitive decline.

What is responsible for this connection?

The researchers speculate that movement in exercise activates skeletal muscles to release hormones responsible for communication with the brain for the health and functioning of neurons.

 As a result, regeneration and growth of brain cells is possible.

Although fewer than ten minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise demonstrated memory improvement, what is an ideal goal for physical activity?

The CDC recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week.

For those who have dogs, this can be as simple as taking old “Fido” on a loop around the neighborhood or park.

For those with cats, well, “herding” them may lead to even higher-intensity activity.

While moderate exercise is good, the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health study found more vigorous activity to be better for your mental functioning.

To elevate your heart rate in exercise, prioritize activities like biking on an incline, swimming, dancing, or jogging.

If you cannot continue a conversation while engaged in the activity, you likely have moved from moderate to vigorous exercise.

Reference: Prevention (Jan. 28, 2023) “These 5 Exercises Boost Brain Health and Improve Memory, Study Finds

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