6 Ways Working Out Makes You Smarter, Too


Everyone knows that regular exercise is necessary for good physical health, but regular physical activity can improve more than your physical body; it can increase your intellectual capacity, as well. Exercise has been shown to improve memory and cognitive function, helping us think and learn better. (See also: Ways to Revive Your Resolution to Exercise)

1. Improves Test Scores

Working out just 30 minutes a day can dramatically improve the way you think, process, focus, and comprehend information. The University of Texas conducted a study on more than 1,100 students. Researchers found that students who averaged an 'A' on their weekly grades also worked out for at least 30 minutes a day for 3.52 times a week. When your body is working harder, your brain reaps the rewards.

2. Increases Energy

Just 15 minutes of daily exercise increases your energy at a cellular level, providing your body with the much needed endurance and strength it needs to stay focused and to think clearly. When you exercise, the increased blood flow to the brain strengthens short-term focus and it and it can ultimately help the brain improve its function later on in life. (See also: 7 Ways to Have Energy After Work)

3. Moving Muscles Feed the Brain

Every time your muscles move, your body revs up production of a protein in the brain called BDNF (PDF). BDNF supports existing neurons and promotes the growth of new neurons and synapses — contributing to improved learning. Brains that have higher levels of BDNF have a greater capacity for knowledge, according to John Ratley, the author of the book "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain."

4. Releases Endorphins

Exercise releases endorphins that improve memory, enhance your mood, and assist in impulse control. When endorphins are released during exercise, the brain's ability to prioritize and focus improves, allowing you to block out unnecessary distractions so you can stick to the task you set out to do. (See also: 6 Tools That Stop Computer Distractions)

5. Expands Memory

Your brain has the ability to remember more during moderate exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine published results of an experiment that showed that students who pedaled an exercise bike moderately while being shown a series of unfamiliar words recalled them more accurately than students who sat quietly or pedaled more vigorously. Dr. Kirk Erickson of the University of Pittsburgh also concluded that older adults who started working out after the age of 65 still benefited from physical activity. After a year of exercising, an MRI revealed an increased volume in the hippocampus and improved memory function. (See also: How to Improve Memory and Get Smarter)

6. Enhances Productivity

The benefits of exercise contribute to an overall increase in productivity. A study to be published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed that workers who increased their physical activity accomplished more at work, they achieved a greater work capacity, and they were not as sick.

Do you exercise regularly? Do you feel like it helps your mind as well as your body?

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Guest's picture

On point #1 - correlation does not imply causation. Just because people that worked out also had high test scores does not mean that one causes the other. Could be, but not necessarily so...

Guest's picture

It is totally true! I definitely feel more able to focus mentally at work if I've exercised before work. It works better than coffee, I swear. Now if only I could pull myself out of bed to do it more often.....