10 ways exercise affects your brain

10 ways exercise affects your brain

We all know about the positive benefits that exercise can have on the body, but there are some impressive ways it works on our mind as well. Here are ten positive impacts that exercise can have on the brain.

1. Lowers the risk of dementia

Regular exercise in middle age has been associated with lower levels of cognitive problems. In fact, the results of 130 different studies found that exercise helped prevent dementia and mild cognitive impairment.

2. Improves memory

Working memory deals with what’s in your mind right now, it’s been shown that after just 30 minutes of exercise, the working memory improves. At low intensity, exercise has also been shown to improve long-term memory.

3. Reduces silent strokes

A silent stroke first has no outward symptoms but sufferers can start to experience memory problems, difficulty moving and an increase in falls, due to damage to the brain. Exercise has been shown to reduce the chance of these silent strokes by 40 per cent.

4. Promotes better sleep

Long-term, if an exercise programme is followed for more than 16 weeks, those with insomnia will general achieve better sleep than those who do no exercise.

5. Reduces migraines

Migraine sufferers shouldn’t fear that a burst of exercise will trigger an attack, on the contrary, a study shows that exercising may actually prevent migraines. People who took part in three sessions a week on an exercise bike for three months showed improvements that matched taking the latest anti-migraine drugs.

6. Boosts self control

Short bouts of exercise have been shown to have an immediate boost on a person’s self-control. Regular exercise doesn’t seem to have an affect, but a period of moderate exercise was shown to encourage people to take better care of themselves.

7. Alzheimer’s prevention

The brain literally wastes away in the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s. Neurons and synapses in the brain are lost. Exercise has been shown to provide a protective effect against the disease by producing chemicals which fight the damaging inflammation of the brain.

8. Stimulates the growth of brain cells

Exercise really does make you smarter. Part of the reason that exercise is beneficial for good mental health is that it helps new brain cells to grow. A study on rats has shown that, in response to exercise, the brain regions related to memory and learning grow.

9. Suppresses appetite

By exercising, the motivation to eat is lessened and the appetite is suppressed – possible due to the creation of the hormone ghrelin, which is increased during exercise.

10. Combats depression

A high number of studies have shown the mood-boosting benefits of exercise. Sufferers of depression are now often prescribed exercise by their GP as the uplifting benefits of exercise have been well documented.


The Author

Laura Briggs

Laura is a fitness writer who loves running, strength training, Pilates and Yoga. When she's got time to herself you might find her knitting, or in the kitchen trying out an elaborate recipe - healthy of course!.


Matthew C.
17 April 2016

Matthew C.

After watching 'How to stay young' the other week, I am so pleased that I am active. Seeing the MRI brain scans and actually seeing increases in grey matter really shows what a difference exercise makes.

Sasha B.
15 April 2016

Sasha B.

I don't know about exercise suppressing appetite. I am always ravenous after a workout and also feel allowed to eat more because I have been active. Maybe I need to workout more ...

craig t.
14 April 2016

craig t.

There's just so many good reasons to exercise regularly and articles like this just remind me and make me so glad I enjoy exercise and go to the gym a lot.

Trevor D.
13 April 2016

Trevor D.

that is quite scary, Emma - I'd never heard of this although I knew of silent heart attacks. The possible effect on migraine is also interesting; I get them occasionally. Even more reason to get out there.

Emma C.
13 April 2016

Emma C.

A friend of mine had a silent stroke in his 30s. He isn't naturally very active, but since then has walked the dog every day. Sometimes it takes something serious to get people moving more.

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