Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Health & Fitness
  3. Holistic Health

Healthy living: Exercise can benefit your brain

See also

The research is in. Exercise not only benefits the body by keeping your muscles fit and toned, but it benefits your brain by triggering the release of certain proteins that protect the brain and significantly improve cognition.

Recent studies

Researchers at the University of Dublin in Ireland conducted a recent study on the cognitive effects of exercise. They asked a group of young men to watch a lineup of photos that were paired with unfamiliar names and, subsequently, flashed quickly on a screen. After taking a break, the men were asked to recall the names as the photos were, once again, flashed on a screen.

The researchers then took half of the men and asked them to go through an extremely strenuous, 30 minute workout on a stationary bike. The other half were allowed to simply sit quietly for 30 minutes. Then both groups were given the same flash-photo test.

The results were undeniable. The exercising group scored significantly better on the test than did their resting counterparts.

The biological component

Interestingly, blood samples taken during the experiment indicated that the exercising group had higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, and muscle regulatory factor, or MRF. These proteins have been the subject of many recent studies and are now known to promote the growth of healthy nerve and muscle cells, respectively. Additionally, BDNF is not only beneficial for brain function, but is also helpful in protecting aging muscle cells from atrophy.

The emotional component

Exercise has long been used as a treatment for depression. There are several reasons for this. Exercise normalizes insulin levels and boosts natural endorphin production. Endorphins, known as “feel good” hormones, are an essential part of regulating mood. In addition, mental health researchers now know that BDNF levels in depressed patients are critically low.

The nutritional component

Even though exercise increases BDNF in the blood stream, it is important to realize that ingesting sugar counters that benefit. As well as suppressing BDNF, sugar also causes chronic inflammation that adversely affects brain function.

There are many metabolic and biological processes that determine brain health. Engaging in moderate physical activity on a regular basis, however, is an easy way to trigger beneficial chemicals and proteins that can help protect neurons and other brain tissue.


Clark, P. J., Kohman, R. A., Miller, D. S., Bhattacharya, T. K., Brzezinska, W. J. and Rhodes, J. S. (2011), Genetic influences on exercise-induced adult hippocampal neurogenesis across 12 divergent mouse strains. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 10: 345–353



  • Dead babies found
    Seven dead babies were found in Utah resident Megan Huntsman's old home
    Shocking Discovery
  • Kendall Jenner
    Get the Coachella looks: Kendall Jenner’s nose ring, green hair and edgy nails
    Coachella Look
  • Dog's Easter basket
    How to fill your dog’s Easter basket with the perfect toys
    Easter Basket
  • Rabbit owners
    Bringing home the bunny: Important information for rabbit owners
    7 Photos
  • Haunted island
    The world’s most haunted island may soon be the most haunted luxury resort
    Haunted Resort
  • Sunken ferry
    Search continues for missing passengers after a ferry sinks off the South Korean coast
    Sunken Ferry

User login

Log in
Sign in with your email and password. Or reset your password.
Write for us
Interested in becoming an Examiner and sharing your experience and passion? We're always looking for quality writers. Find out more about and apply today!