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Boost brain health with physical activity

Physical activity is just as good for your brain as it is for the rest of your body.

Being active improves brain function and prevents cognitive decline. It has also been shown to make you happier and feel more pleasure – so your brain will love you for it!

Here’s 4 ways that physical activity is good for your brain health.

Feed your brain

Getting a moderate amount of aerobic physical activity in your day improves blood flow to the brain, which is how your brain is supplied with nutrients and oxygen.1

Increase attention and learning

Your brain is like a super-computer, and physical activity helps the computer function better. Research has shown that students who participated in short exercise breaks during a lecture increased their ability to focus, improved their comprehension and ability to remember what they had learned.2   So doing a bit of moderate exercise may give you that little lift you need if you are having trouble concentrating.Just 5 minutes may be enough to improve your attention.2

Prevent cognitive decline

There is growing evidence that exercise may help reduce cognitive decline as we get older and protect us from dementia.4,5

The brain, like the rest of our body, changes as we get older. The hippocampus— that’s the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning—shrinks as we get older.This may lead to memory problems and a higher risk of developing dementia. The good news is studies are showing that aerobic exercise (the kind that gets you breathing heavily) can boost the size of your hippocampus.7

Get a better night’s sleep

Exercise has been shown to improve sleep, and sleep is crucial for brain function. We usually think about how sleep rests our body, but it also allows our brains to complete important functions, like maintaining the neurons in our brain, and removing waste byproducts that build up in our brains.Getting regular moderate physical activity can help to improve sleep, and a good night’s sleep will also give you more energy to be active again the next day!


  1. UTSouthwestern Medical Centre 2021, Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, study finds, UTSouthwestern, accessed 19 March 2024 <>
  2. Barbara Fenesi, Kristen Lucibello, Joseph A. Kim, Jennifer J. Heisz, Sweat So You Don’t Forget: Exercise Breaks During a University Lecture Increase On-Task Attention and Learning, Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, Volume 7, Issue 2, 2018, Pages 261-269, ISSN 2211-3681, (
  3. Sousa, Arilson & Medeiros, André & Del Rosso, Sebastian & Stults-Kolehmainen, Matthew & Boullosa, Daniel. (2018). The influence of exercise and physical fitness status on attention: a systematic review. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology.
  4. Pedersen B. K, Saltin B, Exercise as medicine – evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in 26 different chronic diseases, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, Volume 25, Issue S3, 2015, Pages 1-72, ISSN 0905-7188,, (
  5. Hörder H, Johansson L, Guo X, Grimby G, Kern S, Östling S, Skoog I. Midlife cardiovascular fitness and dementia: A 44-year longitudinal population study in women. Neurology. 2018 Apr 10;90(15):e1298-e1305. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005290. Epub 2018 Mar 14. PMID: 29540588; PMCID: PMC5894933.
  6. Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health 2021, Changes That Occur to the Aging Brain: What Happens When We Get Older, Columbia University Irving Medical Centre, accessed 19 March 2024 <>
  7. Erickson KI, Leckie RL, Weinstein AM. Physical activity, fitness, and gray matter volume. Neurobiol Aging. 2014 Sep;35 Suppl 2:S20-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2014.03.034. Epub 2014 May 14. PMID: 24952993; PMCID: PMC4094356
  8. Eugene AR, Masiak J. The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep. MEDtube Sci. 2015 Mar;3(1):35-40. PMID: 26594659; PMCID: PMC4651462.

Last updated: May 27, 2024 at: 12:46 pm