7 Ways physical activity boosts cognitive function

Recent research emphasizes a surprising finding: regular physical activity can boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels by up to 20%, significantly improving cognitive function [1]. 

This revelation underscores physical activity’s potent role in maintaining physical health and bolstering cognitive resilience. 

In this blog, we’ll explore seven compelling ways physical activity can amplify cognitive functions, enhancing everything from memory to problem-solving capabilities.

7 Ways exercise can boost your brain power

1. Enhances memory and learning

Physical activity, particularly aerobic exercises, has been shown to increase hippocampus size, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. 

Research indicates that individuals who exercise regularly have greater brain volume in regions associated with memory processing [1].

2. Increases focus and attention

Studies have demonstrated that regular physical activity can lead to improved neuroplasticity, which includes better neuron development and survival, enhancing the brain’s ability to manage information and maintain concentration [1].

3. Reduces risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Engaging in physical activities like aerobic exercises lowers cognitive decline risk and Alzheimer’s disease. This is thought to be due to increased brain blood flow, which aids in maintaining brain function [1].

4. Boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)

Physical activity elevates levels of BDNF, a compound essential for the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. Higher BDNF levels are associated with improved cognitive functions, including learning and decision-making [1].

5. Reduces inflammation and oxidative stress

Physical activity combats inflammation and oxidative stress, both linked to neurodegenerative diseases. 

Exercise modulates inflammatory responses and enhances antioxidant defenses, protecting brain cells and preserving cognitive functions. 

Regular physical activity thus strengthens the body and fortifies the brain against age-related cognitive decline [1].

6. Improves vascular health and brain blood flow

Regular exercise promotes overall vascular health and enhances cerebral blood flow. This improvement in blood circulation ensures that the brain receives ample oxygen and nutrients needed for optimal functioning. 

Studies have shown that increased blood flow can help reduce vascular-related cognitive decline risk and boost overall brain performance [1].

7. Stimulates neurogenesis and neuroprotective effects

Physical activity enhances the brain’s current state and contributes to new brain cell creation, a process known as neurogenesis. 

Exercise induces the production of growth factors such as BDNF, which facilitate the birth of new neurons, particularly in the hippocampus [1]. 

Additionally, these activities help protect these new and existing brain cells by boosting anti-inflammatory and antioxidant responses in the brain, providing a buffer against neurodegenerative diseases  [1].

From enhancing memory and learning to protecting against cognitive decline, the benefits of exercise are profound and pervasive. 

As we learn more about the neuroprotective effects of physical activity, exercise becomes apparent as a key component of a healthy body and a vibrant, active mind.

Start integrating more physical activity into your daily life – a brisk walk, cycling, or dance classes—and unlock the cognitive benefits supporting a sharper, more resilient brain.

[1] https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/aging-neuroscience/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2021.761674/full 

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