Ways Exercise Increases Intelligence

We all know exercise has some great benefits to our body physically, but did you know it can provide amazing mental benefits too? Improve your body and brain with these 6 reasons why working out improves memory, boosts focus, and prevents cognitive decline.

Sprint to Boost Memory

The fastest (literally) way to improve memory is to do sprints, according to a Neurobiology of Learning and Memory study from the University of Muenster, Department of Neurology, in Germany, who found that word memory improved after a series of high-intensity sprints.

Neurologists tested the learned vocabulary of participants before and after they performed high-impact sprints vs. low-impact running, and found that the high-intensity sprints boosted improved dopamine production, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (a protein that triggers brain nerve cell growth), epinephrine, and word memory by 20-percent.

Physical Activity Dials Up Productivity

It’s tough to imagine that hitting the gym can improve your productivity when you have zero time to spare as it is. However, Harvard Medical School professor and Ph.D, Dr. John J. Ratey, says that “Without [exercise], our brains can’t take in new information or make new cells.”

A study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, supports that claim with findings that show a 23-percent increase in productivity on workout days—due more amounts of of fresh oxygen reaching the brain, which improves overall brain function.

Sweat for Better Decision-Making

Your brain contains muscle, which means it needs just as much exercise and oxygen as the rest of your body to function efficiently. Studies published in both the National Institutes of Health and the journal Psychophysiology, monitored a group of women—half who worked out and have that did not.

Findings revealed that following physical activity, women who exercised experienced increased oxygen flow to the decision-making area of their brains (the anterior frontal region) compared to those who didn’t exercise.

Strength Focus with Resistance Training

Resistance training takes a lot of concentration—when it comes to counting reps, sets, paying attention to proper form, and more, which is why it doesn’t surprise in the least that resistance training has been linked to improving mental focus.

Findings recorded from a review of approximately 100 different scientific studies, and published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, showed that those who performed regular workouts featuring weight lifting (or strength training) stayed better focused, and less distractions, both in the gym and in their daily lives.

Yoga for Mental Processing

Yoga certainly does take focus—especially when you’re trying to psych yourself out to to a handstand. However, research from the University of Illinois links regular yoga practice with improved mental clarity and the ability to process.

In fact, the study found that after just one 20-minute yoga session, a college-aged students is able to more accurately process information at a much quicker rate then before. Suddenly straight As are another reason to hit your yoga mat and get stretchy.

Exercise for Greater Endurance

We all hit that inevitable wall when we run, cycle, or try a challenging yoga pose—the wall that says, “I’ve had enough, I can’t do this anymore!” We all know that regular exercise can improve endurance on a physical level as we gain strength and energy.

However, research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology points out that exercise can improve our mental endurance and lessen mental fatigue as well. Data links regular exercise with the ability to better withstand mental fatigue and mental blocks that say, “I can’t”.


Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.