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Four Ways Exercise Affects Your Brain

You know that exercise affects your body—by helping you stay aerobically fit and toned—but did you know that it’s also good for your brain? Indeed, exercise is good for the body and the mind—and there is plenty of science to back it up. So, the next time you’re thinking about skipping your workout, just remember that exercise does all of the following:

Reduces Stress: Face it—we’re all stressed. In fact, sometimes we’re so stressed that we use it as an excuse to skip a workout. How could we possibly squeeze in one more thing on the to-do list? The truth is—exercise is the one thing on your to-do list that should be non-negotiable because it has been shown to reduce stress. In fact, a study from the University of Colorado has shown that even forced exercise helps reduce anxiety and stress. So—get moving.

Alleviates Depression: Exercise releases endorphins and can improve mood and keep depression at bay. In fact, science has shown that too little exercise is no good for our mood and too much exercise is just as bad. Aim for 2.5 to 7.5 hours per week.

Improves Memory: Exercise improves blood flow to the brain, which boosts memory and overall brain function. In fact, research subjects perform 15 percent better on memory tasks after exercise. What’s more, exercise appears to prevent brain shrinkage as we age. As if you needed more reasons to get moving!

Improves Sleep: People who exercise regularly tend to have better quality of sleep, vitality, and mood.  In turn, this improved sleep gives them an extra energy boost, thereby improving their quality of life. In other words, if a fit, toned body isn’t enough of a motivator, go for the endorphins and the psychological benefits. Just keep moving!


Greenwood BN, Spence KG, Crevling DM, et al: Exercise-induced stress resistance is independent of exercise controllability and the medial prefrontal cortex. European Journal of Neuroscience. 2014; 37(3): 469-478.
Kim YS, Park YS, Allegrante JP, et al. Relationship between physical activity and general mental health. Preventive Medicine. 2012;  55(5): 458-463.
Gow AJ, Bastin ME, Maniega SM, et al. Neuroprotective lifestyles and the aging brain: Activity, atrophy, and white matter integrity. Neurology. 2012; 79(17): 1802-1808.
Reid KJ, Baron KG, Lu B, et al: Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep Medicine. 2010; 11(9): 934-940.