Does Exercise Make You Smarter?

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Exercise is a great way to keep your body fit and healthy but is exercise also good for your brain? It has been said that exercise is good for the human brain with many recent studies suggesting that regular exercise improves thinking and memory skills. Exercise is defined as planned and structured physical activity designed to improve or maintain physical fitness.

Some benefits of exercise are:

  • Helps to control weight
  • Combats health conditions and diseases
  • Helps to boost energy
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Strengthens your bones and muscles
  • Improves your mood and mental health

Studies have shown that exercise can improve brain or cognitive function. Aerobic exercise has been widely praised for its potential benefits to cognition and overall brain and mental health. Aerobic exercise has been shown to stimulate hippocampal neuroplasticity and successfully counteract deteriorating hippocampal function. Neuroplasticity is the process in which your brain’s neural synapses and pathways are altered as an effect of environmental, behavioral, and neural changes. The hippocampus plays an important role in both learning and memory and affective processing.

Aerobic exercise can also increase the rate of hippocampal neurogenesis. Adult neurogenesis is a form of structural hippocampal plasticity that refers to the process of stem cells forming new neurons within a few, distinct sub-regions of the adult brain. Aerobic Exercise also induces a variety of other neuroplastic mechanisms that work both independently and in tandem with neurogenesis to improve hippocampal functioning.

People who exercise regularly report being able to focus and perform better on the days they work out. So how much exercise do you need to help your brain function at its best? Experts believe that as little as 15-30 minutes per day three times a week may be enough to improve brain performance. Thirty to sixty minutes per day four to five times a week is even better.

As with all exercise, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Exercise is good for your body in so many ways including improving brain function. So you should incorporate as much exercise as you can into your daily or weekly routine. Just take it easy starting out until your body adjusts to getting more exercise.


Gomez-Pinilla, F., & Hillman, C. (2013). The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities. Comprehensive Physiology, 3(1), 403–428.

Gradari, S., Pallé, A., McGreevy, K. R., Fontán-Lozano, Á., & Trejo, J. L. (2016). Can Exercise Make You Smarter, Happier, and Have More Neurons? A Hormetic Perspective. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10, 93.

Kandola, A., Hendrikse, J., Lucassen, P. J., & Yücel, M. (2016). Aerobic Exercise as a Tool to Improve Hippocampal Plasticity and Function in Humans: Practical Implications for Mental Health Treatment. Frontiers In Human Neuroscience, 1-26. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2016.00373