How Exercise Makes You Smarter

· March 21, 2016

Exercise is healthy for both your body and your mind. In addition to helping you stay healthy and fit, exercising also helps you feel better about yourself, have more energy, regulate stress, and combat depression and anxiety.

However, the effect exercise has on your body and your mind goes even further. Recent studies have shown that physical activity is also beneficial to the brain and improves the ability both to remember and to learn.

“The higher your energy level, the more efficient your body The more efficient your body, the better you feel and the more you will use your talent to produce outstanding results.”
-Tony Robbins-

Aerobic exercise promotes learning

Several studies have linked improvements in fitness to significant improvements in memory and learning abilities. For example, one study found that children who had a good aerobic capacity scored higher on memory tests than those with low fitness levels.

Researchers have also suggested that exercise improves memory and makes studying less difficult, especially when you have to deal with complex and challenging tasks.


kids playing soccer

Exercise causes brain cell growth and development

According to experts, cardiovascular exercise not only enhances learning, but also causes real changes within the brain. Hormones secreted after exercising cause beneficial effects on attention span and increased perception abilities.

Cardiovascular exercise promotes cell growth, mood regulation and the release of hormones such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Moreover, studies have shown that intense aerobic activities like running can increase neurogenesis (birth of new neurons) and improve the chances that these newly formed cells survive and thrive.

It has also been found that exercise stimulates the production of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that helps preserve brain cells and stimulates the birth and growth of neurons.

Exercise and cognitive reserve

Studies have shown that the benefits of exercise are cumulative, i.e, that they affect cognitive reserve (The ability to tolerate changes in brain structures related to a given age or pathology.)

The increase in the cognitive reserve can extend the protective effect against certain neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

couple biking

What is the best type of exercise to promote learning?

Although exercising is generally beneficial for the brain, certain types of training favor certain types of learning more than others, since each one affects our mind in a certain way.

Researchers have found that different types of exercise have the ability affect the brain in different ways.

Most studies suggest that cardiovascular exercise is the one that offers the greatest benefits to increase memory capacity and enhance learning. However, there is also evidence that strength training can benefit the brain and that even moderate exercise can lead to such brain benefits.

Researchers have found that moderate exercise, such as walking and lifting weights for toning purposes, can help avoid memory problems associated with aging.

One study also found that older adults who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment showed improvements in memory and language skills after following an exercise program consisting of two weekly sessions of 90 minutes of aerobic exercise, strength training and balance for a year.