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How Does Physical Exercise Improve Brain Health? Know Which Exercises are Beneficial

Tejal Surve 26-09-2022

Exercising regularly is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. People have different reasons for exercising such as aesthetics, body image issues, weight loss, building muscles or health issues. Whatever the reason, exercising offers various benefits for mental health, physical fitness and the brain. 

Yes, exercising has positive effects on your Brain Health. 

What is Brain Health?

Brain health refers to the state of brain functions such as cognitive, sensory, emotional, social-emotional, behavioral and motor functioning. 

For most part of our life, we train our brain muscles through cognitive exercises such as learning new skills, playing games, solving puzzles, socializing, and learning languages. But are cognitive exercises enough for improving cerebral functioning, especially as an adult?

No, it is not. While cognitive exercises help in keeping your brain active and engaged, they aren't enough to handle the effects of aging.

Effects of Aging on Brain Health

Aging visibly changes our bodies. Just like bodies, even brains go through changes all through our life. With aging, brain functions like memory, processing, and spatial awareness decline too. Scientists believe these are the changes in the brain that happen with aging.

  1. Shrinkage of brain mass that affects cognitive function and encoding of new memories.
  2. Thinner cortical density and Myelin shrinkage that results in slower cognitive processing speed.
  3. Less chemical messengers (dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, norepinephrine) that results in memory decline and decreased cognition. 

Although aging is inevitable, not everyone experiences the same effects because of it. You might not be able to stop your brain from aging, but exercising will help in slowing down its declining effects. 

Physical Exercises and Brain Health

Exercising is good for the body but it helps your brain health and cognitive functions. When we talk about exercising, it includes normal, mild and intense workouts.

Some studies have concluded that exercising high positively affects the brain as well as some exercises can even alter brain structure. 

Exrcising speeds up the heartbeat, increasing blood flow in the brain exposing it to more oxygen and nutrients. This helps in increasing the building blocks of the brain, i.e. neurons.

Let’s explore into further detail the benefits of physical exercises on the brain. 

Benefits of Exercises on Cognitive Functions and Processing

1. Provides Memory Boost 

When a person ages, their brain structure also goes through changes. Aging brings new changes like marriage, having kids, etc. which comes with emotional and physical challenges.

These changes can cause a person to feel stressed, fatigued, and sleep deprived. This can contribute to increased forgetfulness and short-term memory loss. Exercising can help increase stamina, reduce physical fatigue and improve sleep quality.

As per a research, exercise benefits brain function and cognition while reducing health risks like Alzheimer's and dementia. Aerobic exercises have an effect on the hippocampus which is a crucial part of the brain in learning and memory formation processes.

2. Improve Concentration

Other than improving memory foundation, exercises also help improve concentration. According to a study, there is a correlation between exercising and an increase in concentration. It doesn’t talk about long term effects of exercising on concentration but daily exercises helps to maintain if not increase concentration levels. 

3. It boosts mental health.

You might’ve heard it before but exercising boosts your mental health and emotional state. There have been studies that prove that daily workouts can prevent or reduce depressive symptoms.

A research on mice showed that exercising helps your mental health, and not just because of endorphin rush after a workout. The research’s results concluded that there are profound effects on the brain’s endocannabinoid system which provides pleasure and pain killing effects. 

4. Slowing down the Cognitive Decline Process

As we age, so does our body. But did you know that like our bodies, our brains also go through physical changes? One study proved that physical fitness is related to the state of cognitive processes in old age. Not just this, but our cognitive functioning and processing speed decline after 50. 

Exercising can slow down cognitive decline. When we say exercising, it doesn't mean you have to exercise every day. Walking 3 to 4 times a week for 30 minutes or so is just as beneficial and can delay the onset of dementia. 

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of exercising, let’s move to discussing which exercises you can include in your workouts for a healthy brain. 

Exercises That Are Good for your Brain Health 

There are a lot of exercises that are beneficial for a person's overall health and fitness.But these exercises have been proven to provide unique benefits. 

1. Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercises work on large muscle groups and improve cardiovascular health, weight-loss, and stamina. But, as per a research article in the Journal of Physiology, aerobic exercises improve memory and executive function in older adults. 

Some popular aerobic exercises you can do are running, walking, dancing, jump rope, squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks.

2. Weight Training

As per a study, physical activity like weight training is related to better cognition in middle-aged and older adults. Just 10-20 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercising will lead to better verbal memory and executive function. 

Weight training boosts the brain, keeps one mentally engaged while increasing focus. This is why incorporating strength training in your workout is a must. Choose from popular weight training exercises like weight-lifting, resistance bands, push-ups, pull-ups, crunches and squats.

3. Flexibility Exercises 

Flexibility exercises stretch out specific body muscles. When done regularly, they improve muscles and joints’ range of motion, helping in improving overall functionality. 

Oter than improving range of motion, flexibility exercises help with fatigue, muscle stress and overall fitness. Flexibility exercises increase dynamic brain connectivity (neural flexibility) which directly improves memory flexibility.

Some easy stretching exercises you can incorporate in your workout are child’s pose, lying hamstring stretch, cobra pose and spinal twist.

4. Balance Exercises 

Balancing exercises target back muscles, legs and core. These exercises help in improving lower body strength. Some people have more balance than others but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. Working on body balance also provides benefits to the brain.

According to a study, balancing exercises improve memory and spatial cognition. Spatial cognition helps in organizing information from a person’s environment.

If you want to get started with working on balance, try exercises like dance, pilates, yoga, and obstacle courses.


1. How does exercise affect the brain?

Exercising improves memory by increasing molecular targets, making it easier to absorb information quickly and store them as long-term memories. 

2. Which exercise is best for the brain?

There is no one best exercise, but one of the most beneficial ones are aerobic exercises which increase the oxygen supply to the brain.

3. Can exercise rewire your brain?

Regular aerobic exercises can rewire your brain to enable key circuits which are responsible for memory storage and processing. 


Physical activity is an important part of our lives, helping us improve overall health and well-being. This also includes the effects it has on brain health like slowing down brain aging, preventing the risks of diseases such as Alzheimers’s, dementia and diabetes.

It also helps in improving cognitive processes and memory, helping the brain to stay sharp as a person ages. Here’s how exercises benefit cognitive processing and functions.

  • Provides Memory Boost 
  • Improve Concentration
  • Boosts Mental Health 
  • Slowing Down Cognitive Decline Process 

Now that you know how exercises are beneficial for brain health, let’s get into which type of exercises you should choose. 

  1. Aerobic Exercises
  2. Weight Training
  3. Flexibility Exercises 
  4. Balance Exercises 

Incorporating these exercises in your workout without proper scheduling is messy. But if your gym uses a gym management software, you can use it to keep track of your training schedule. 

If you want to improve management in your gym/fitness center, try our Gym Management software with a free trial today. 

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