Exactly Why Exercise Keeps Your Brain Healthy, According To Science

Photo: Mauro Grigollo

Ever feel like health news is too overwhelming, fast-paced, or hard to decipher? Us too. Here, we filter through the latest in integrative health, wellness trends, and nutrition advice, reporting on the most exciting and meaningful breakthroughs. We’ll tell you exactly what you need to know—and how it might help you become a healthier and happier human.

From preventing heart disease to alleviating depression, the physical and mental benefits of exercise are obvious. But according to a new review of research published in the journal NeuroImage, regular exercise is an excellent way to prevent the brain from shrinking and protect against cognitive decline as we age.

According to lead researcher Joseph Firth, after age 40 even the healthiest brains begin to decline by 5 percent per decade—but because of a chemical called BDNF, exercise can prevent this decline. When we exercise, more BDNF is released in the brain, causing the hippocampus to react and the brain to grow, changing brain volume.

"[The reason the brain declines] is partly due to less BDNF in the brain," says Firth. "Exercise regulates the BDNF and prevents it from deteriorating."

So, what counts as regular exercise? According to the CDC, 150 minutes of exercise per week is enough to get the benefits—that's just 20 minutes a day. You've got this.

Need ideas for workouts you can do at home over the holidays? Here's a HIIT workout you can do in your apartment.

Related Posts

Your article and new folder have been saved!