30 Surprising Ways Exercise Affects Your Brain
The human brain is a powerful, complex organ. But in all of its complexity, the brain may be beyond our reach to understand all of its functions.
One thing we do know, for certain, is that regular exercise impacts our brain in numerous, positive ways. For children, that means stimulating growth and setting up long-term functions for learning and memory. For adults, it means fighting off disease and extending our lives.
Here are 30 ways exercise affects our brains and easy exercises you can do to promote brain development and get stronger.
1. Stimulate the Growth of New Brain Cells
Exercise, in its most basic form, increases the release of hormones throughout your body. Those hormones are what we need to stimulate the growth of new brain cells.
Don’t believe the old cliche saying of "your brain is a muscle" (because it’s really not). But do believe that anything you do with your muscles, exercise-wise, is going to impact the growth of new brain cells.
Maybe "your brain needs your muscles" would be better?
Exercise ideas: Jumping jacks, burpees, squats
How to Stimulate the Growth of New Brain Cells
Do jumping jacks. Start with 25 or however many you can do. Here’s how to do a jumping jack:
- Stand up straight with your arms at your side.
- Bend your knees a little, and jump into the air.
- As you jump, spread your legs to shoulder-width and stretch your arms at your side over your head.
- Jump back to starting position.
Watch how to do a jumping jack
2. Reinforce Positive Thoughts and Beat Depression
Battling depression is a real thing for people.
For some, it may be something they not have experienced before. For others who have, and are even more vulnerable, battling depression already is a familiar fight.
Exercise can help us stay positive and reinforce positive thoughts in our minds during even the most trying times.
Exercise ideas: Running, walking, hiking, yoga
How to Reinforce Positive Thoughts and Beat Depression
Go for a run or a walk. Start with whatever time or distance you feel comfortable with and work up from here. Here’s how to get started:
- Find a good, comfortable pair of athletic shoes you know will support your feet.
- Pick a time of the day that best fits your schedule or when you feel like you have the most energy.
- Find a good route to walk or run, preferably one with some good scenery so it’s visually stimulating as well.
- Set a time or distance limit for yourself, and if you have a digital, wearable tracking device, start it when your walk or run begins.
- Let your mind clear out as you start, focusing just on getting in sync with your body’s movements and how you feel.
Watch how to get started running or walking
3. Improve Memory
The approach to improving your memory and training your brain to have a better memory isn’t dissimilar to the approach bodybuilders take to improving specific muscles. That means you have to consistently do exercises that focus on your memory, just like you do specific lifts that focus on muscle groups.
The key thing to remember about training your memory through exercise is trying new things. It’s always going to be better for you, in the case of improving memory, to do exercises you’re not necessarily comfortable with.
Exercise ideas: Wall climbing, tennis/pickleball, walking
How to Improve Memory
Try wall climbing. Start with a beginner wall. Discovering where to step and grab will help your memory because you will recall which patterns you need to complete the exercise.
- Find somewhere close to your home that has a "bouldering" wall. Some elementary schools and middle schools now have them on playgrounds. They are close to the ground and require no harnesses or equipment.
- Wear workout clothes that have a relaxing fit. Somewhat loose is always better for climbing.
- If possible, bring someone that can be a spotter.
- Pick out a pair of athletic shoes that have a good grip on the bottom — no worn-out soles.
- Maybe bring a little chalk powder to help your grip when your hands get sweaty.
Watch how to wall climb
4. Get a 'Runner's High' (It's a Real Thing) and Feel Happy
Plenty of us have heard of the term "runner’s high," but do you know what the chemical reaction in the brain is that triggers this?
Endorphins are chemicals released into the brain when you are experiencing positive emotions, and come from prolonged running and testing normal body functions like endurance. When we start to test these functions and succeed, we begin to feel emotions like happiness, gratefulness and euphoria.
In order to do this, we need to push ourselves to 75-80 percent of our maximum capacity.
Exercise ideas: Jogging, swimming, rowing
How to Get a 'Runner’s High' and Feel Happy
Go for a run and try to push yourself past what you normally can do. Here’s a look at how that might work for you.
- Get a good pair of running shoes. Nike, Asics and Brooks are ranked among the best.
- Get a good warm-up or stretch going. Take 10 minutes to get your muscles acclimated to what you’re about to do.
- Set goals for times. Always try to beat what you’ve done the previous time out. Even if it’s by one second, you did it!
- Give yourself plenty of time to cool down, and don’t forget to hydrate and drink plenty of water.
- Enjoy the endorphins flooding through your body.
Watch how “Runner’s High” works
5. Lower Stress
Everyone deals with stress in one way or another, and it’s all-encompassing because stress can come from almost anything.
The chemical equation for stress relates mainly to the hormones released into your body that cause stress, which are adrenaline and cortisol.
When we exercise, it reduces the level of those hormones in our bodies and increases the release of endorphins, our body’s natural painkiller and mood enhancers.
Exercise ideas: Weightlifting, gardening, swimming
How to Lower Stress
Give gardening a shot. The process of planting and taking care of whatever you plant could be therapeutic. Here’s how you get started.
- Identify somewhere you can plant a garden where you live. If there’s not somewhere immediately available, check to see if there’s a community garden in the area.
- Figure out what you want to plant and grow. Is it flowers? Is it vegetables?
- Get some "gardening clothes" that you won’t mind if they get dirty from working in the dirt.
- Get some work gloves, a small spade to dig up dirt and some potting soil. Amazon sells 16-quart bags of Miracle-Gro for under $30.
- Just like any other exercise, make sure you stretch a little bit and get your muscles loosened up before starting work on your garden.
Watch how to start gardening
6. Improve Mental Health
A lot of analysis about exercise and its benefits focuses on improving mental health.
Sometimes, the topic of "fighting off" depression or anxiety comes up in those discussions, but a more positive take might be if we approached exercise as something that can enhance and improve our mental health from a place of strength.
That means not going into the process thinking we’re in a bad place, to begin with. We’re good, mentally, and exercise will just make us better.
Exercise ideas: Yoga, pilates, running
How to Improve Mental Health
Do some yoga. For a long time, it’s been thought of as a surefire, low-impact way to exercise and gain some clarity as to where your mental health should be. Here’s how to get started on yoga.
- Yoga mats are around $15, but if you just want to lay out some towels that works just as well.
- Yoga classes are available online, for free and for beginners, on YouTube and Amazon Prime.
- Wear some comfortable clothes, but nothing too baggy. You can wear shoes if you like indoors, but most yoga is done without your shoes on.
Watch how to do yoga
7. Lower Social Anxiety
Social anxiety and the difficulties associated with living with social anxiety are easily misunderstood.
People who deal with social anxiety on a day-to-day basis understand it can be crippling and is mostly centered around worries that you won’t react to something the correct way in a social situation or what people will think if you don’t.
Exercise can lower social anxiety because it’s a way of setting goals for yourself and fulfilling them. The thought is, if you can live up to that deal with yourself, you also can do it in social situations.
Exercise ideas: Swimming, cycling, running stairs
How to Lower Social Anxiety
Running stairs or walking stairs is something most of us have easy access to. Here’s how it could work for you.
- Identify stairs near (or in) your home that would be challenging or sort of challenging if you ran or walked them on a regular basis.
- Pick out a time of day where the stairs aren’t likely to have much traffic on them.
- If the stairs are within walking distance of your home, possibly incorporate that walk into your exercise routine.
- The first time through, just walk the stairs to see how the layout is, make sure the area is safe and there aren’t any hazards.
- Set a goal of time or reps — maybe both — and go for it.
Watch how to run stairs
8. Increase Focus and Concentration
Just three months of consistent aerobic exercise has been linked to the development of new neurons in the human brain, along with denser connections between those neurons.
What that means is if you exercise on a consistent basis, you’re going to have a much more clear connection between your thoughts and actions, and you’ll be able to complete tasks with a much sharper focus.
Putting all the chemical reactions and benefits aside, consistently focusing on an exercise routine is a benefit in itself.
Exercise ideas: Meditation, yoga, tai-chi
How to Increase Focus and Concentration
Don’t turn your back on meditation as a legitimate exercise routine that can not only help with focus and concentration but your overall health. Here’s how to start your meditation routine.
- Find a spot where you can get some privacy for 30 minutes to an hour at a time, preferably, but don’t pin yourself to a length of time for actual meditation.
- Get comfortable in your spot. Find a position in which you think you can sit still, comfortably, for an extended period of time.
- Take a few minutes to focus on your breathing. Where do you feel it coming from?
- Take deep, long, slow breaths for two minutes, keeping your focus specifically on breathing and how it’s making you feel. Repeat.
- When you find your mind wandering, don’t be hard on yourself. Try to bring it back to your breathing.
Watch how to meditate
9. Slow Down Aging
Researchers at the University of Birmingham and King’s College in London have done long-term studies on groups of adults who did and did not exercise.
The overwhelming results of those studies showed that exercise slowed down the aging process for one group of adults compared to the other.
It’s the clearest long-term evidence we have of exercise being a big benefit to slowing down the aging process.
Exercise ideas: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), jogging, cycling
How to Slow Down the Aging Process
Try a HIIT workout. They’re intense but they can be done at home. Here are some suggestions on how to get started.
- HIIT workouts can be as short as five minutes and usually go up to about 30-45 minutes so keep that in mind.
- Warm-up is really important in HIIT workouts and usually starts with running in place and doing lunges in place.
- HIIT workouts usually go to the ground at some point for core work, so bring towels to lay on, or a yoga mat.
- Some light weight lifting is also involved.
Watch how to do a basic HIIT workout
10. Neurons Start Firing
The breakthrough in research about the development of new neurons in the brain has been extraordinary in the last five years.
There was a school of thought that believed the development of new neurons, which naturally occurs during exercise, might have an impact on old neurons, with an assumption this might impact older memories.
We now know this not to be true. Exercise creates new neurons and helps steady our mood.
Exercise ideas: Running, swimming, meditation/yoga
How to Get Neurons Firing
Go for a swim. Don’t worry about time, distance or ability. Even if you’re not a strong swimmer, you can start your swimming routine with just a pool workout by staying in the shallow end.
- The first thing to do is gauge your ability as a swimmer. Instructional classes are available for adults as well, and it’s never too late to learn to swim.
- Find somewhere you feel comfortable with the pool setup. Lap pools are great, but most pools have a shallow area for learning to swim or other exercises.
- Remember that the healing powers of working out in water are numerous. When Michael Jordan rehabbed his broken foot during the 1985-86 NBA season, pool workouts were a huge part.
- Like most workouts, don’t get hung up on how long you’re in the pool or what workout you do. Just get moving.
Watch how to do a swimming workout
11. Give Yourself Added Motivation
Over time, the motivation that comes with consistent exercise becomes a learned behavior.
That means that we’ll (hopefully) become so reliant on getting that rush of endorphins in our system that we begin to make it part of our day and see such great benefits from it that we’re motivated to exercise on a regular basis.
Motivation is unique in the ways exercise benefits our brain because it’s an intrinsic thing — it comes from within.
Exercise ideas: Short walks, squats, pushups, crunches
How to Create Motivation
Do crunches. It’s an impactful, easy-to-learn exercise that focuses on creating core strength.
- Yoga mats, towels or just a clean space in your house on the floor will work for crunches.
- Lay on your back. Your arms can go across your chest or behind your head.
- Lift your legs up, putting one foot on top of the other. Or keep your feet on the ground. Whatever is most comfortable.
- Squeeze your midsection by raising up your head toward your knees. Repeat.
- Set a goal for how many you want to do or how long you want to do crunches — could be 10-25 crunches or one minute.
Watch how to do a crunch
12. Give Yourself More Willpower
Willpower begins in your brain, and scientists have found that it’s an emotion that can get worn out over time. Mainly from overuse.
We have a lot to overcome in our day-to-day life that takes a lot of willpower and motivation, and it needs to be replenished just like our muscles need continued use to stay healthy. But that can be tricky. While we understand the benefits of exercise for our brain, we can’t always identify what parts we’re building.
Willpower is hard to come by, so the tougher the exercise, the more of it we’re tapping into.
Exercise ideas: Weightlifting, meditation, HIIT workouts
How to Create More Willpower
Try some simple weightlifting exercises. Don’t worry about how much you’re lifting but do focus on consistency.
- When you get around weights, test out what you feel like you can lift. Just pick a few up and you’ll know. Always start light.
- You’re gonna sweat, so get a towel for yourself and some spray and wipes set up to clean up your lifting area after you’re done.
- YouTube has an amazing amount of beginner videos for different lifts. Pick a part of your body you want to focus on to begin with and find some lifts that focus on that.
- If possible, have a spotter with you while you lift.
- Write down your results and keep track of them over time, specifically how much weight you lift and the number of reps. This will set goals for the next time out.
Watch how to lift weights
13. Life Becomes More Enjoyable
Long-term studies have shown that people who exercise regularly enjoy happier lives. It’s not a surefire way to make yourself happy, but you are giving yourself a much greater chance of making your life more enjoyable if you do exercise.
Doctors in the U.S. and Great Britain have done studies on patients who reported depression. Some were given antidepressants. Others were recommended to exercise three times a week for at least 45 minutes.
The group on antidepressants had an almost 40 percent relapse rate. The exercise group? Under 10 percent.
Exercise ideas: Walking, jogging, hiking
How to Make Life More Enjoyable
Go for a hike. It’s pretty much the same as going for a walk, but it’s going to take a little more planning.
- Find out if there are any good hiking or walking trails around where you live.
- The difference between a walk and a hike isn’t much, but with a hike, you might get better scenery.
- Pack a backpack with some essentials like water, maybe a protein bar and a towel.
- The shoes you use for a walk should work for the hike. Just remember that they might get a little more banged up in the great outdoors.
- Plot your course ahead of time. You don’t want to get lost.
Watch how to go for a hike
14. Enhance Decision-Making Skills
The mental clarity that comes with putting exercise into your life on a consistent basis is a real thing. One of the challenges of creating an exercise routine is finding what time of day works best for you — and understanding that it won’t be the same for everyone.
However, there is some evidence that exercising in the morning helps with better decision-making because you have the rest of the day to fortify those positive results you get from the exercise.
On the flip side, it’s been shown that a sedentary lifestyle impairs cognitive functioning.
Exercise ideas: Treadmill workouts, walking, HIIT workouts
How to Enhance Decision-Making Skills
Treadmill workouts can be great because you can do them from home or stay in the same location and get great exercise. You also can mix up your workout on the treadmill, and here’s how to approach it.
- Get dressed for the same workout as if you were going for a jog or a run outdoors.
- Not all treadmills are created equal. Make sure you go slow at the start to test out the different speeds and see how the belt feels under your feet.
- If you want to challenge yourself, pick an incline position for the treadmill for your workout.
- Set your time limit. Watching the clock tick down on your workout is good motivation, and you’ll find yourself pushing yourself more toward the end.
Watch how to do work out on a treadmill
15. Lower Overall Fatigue
Fatigue is part of exercise. If you’re doing it right, you’ll eventually work out until you’re spent.
Physical fatigue and mental fatigue can be two very different things, so what you’ll begin to experience the more that you exercise is that your brain and thinking are much sharper during the day and things that used to negatively impact your performance at work or in day-to-day life no longer are issues.
Imagine how much more productive we could be without needing to take that afternoon nap?
Exercise ideas: Weightlifting, tai-chi, yoga, bands training
How to Lower Overall Fatigue at Home
Try training with bands opposed to training with weights. It’s a technique that’s become incredibly popular among professional tennis players like Rafael Nadal. Here’s how to get started.
- Bands are usually hard or soft rubber but are built to have different resistance. Pick a variety of ones for your workouts.
- Find a clean, private space to work in. The area you need won’t be much different than what you need for yoga.
- Start with getting a feel for the bands by stretching them with both hands across your chest, above your head and behind your head.
- Find a sturdy object, like a pole to wrap the bands around for some exercises, but there are some that you can do without having it wrapped around anything.
- For beginners, shoot for one set of 12-16 sets for each exercise, but don’t go to discomfort.
Watch how to train with bands
16. Fight Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and there is no way (yet) to determine if this terrible condition can be prevented.
What scientists do know is that obesity and diabetes seem to be linked to Alzheimer’s and that making lifestyle changes that include regular physical activity and paying attention to your cardiovascular health can help.
For people who are genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s, regular exercise can reduce the risk of the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Exercise ideas: Walking, light jogging, standing desk workout
How to Fight Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease
The key to doing exercises with a focus on preventing early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is not doing things that might risk injury. One that does that really well is the standing desk workout, and here’s how it might go.
- This is a workout you could do in your office (if they’re OK with that) or at your home office in the middle of your day.
- You’ll have to be standing up, obviously, but start with some simple twists that get your body limber and warmed up.
- You can do variances of this, but the workout usually starts with heel raises. Then go into side leg raises, squats, and finish with walking in place, which can graduate to running in place.
- Remember the suggested reps are just suggestions. Usually, do three sets of 10 to begin with, but always go at your own pace, and feel free to add/subtract as you see fit.
- The whole workout only takes about 15 minutes to complete, if that. Carve away a little chunk of your day to do it and you will see improvements before you know it.
Watch how to do a standing desk workout
17. Improve Balance
Plenty of the exercises we are proposing here improve balance in your life in a figurative way — as in they’re exercises that literally improve the balance of work, life, love, etc., in your life.
But did you know exercise has also been shown to have remarkable benefits for your cerebellum, which regulates your actual balance?
This is so important for elderly people because the risk of a fall as you get older is much more drastic.
Exercise ideas: Alternating knee lifts, lunges, Bosu ball with a platform
How to Improve Balance
Knee lifts are an easy way to improve your balance and get exercise. Almost anyone can do them, and here’s how to get started.
- You can do these indoors or outdoors, just pick a spot. You’ll need an area where you can take at least five big steps.
- Warm up similar to the standing desk workout — twist your trunk and arms and stretch your legs.
- Pull one knee up to where you can. Put both hands on the front of the knee, hold the position for several seconds, let it go and take a step out. Alternate knees for 5-10 steps, turn then go back the other way.
Watch how to do knee lifts
18. Repair Damaged Brain Cells
Hippocampal neurogenesis might sound like another language, but it’s just the regeneration of new brain cells, which can be greatly aided through exercise. But did you know you also can heal damaged brain cells through exercise?
It’s thought that prolonged, consistent exercise can fix the damaged cells and is usually greatly aided by that exercise occurring in stimulating environments — specifically, being in aesthetically pleasing, outdoor settings.
Great weather doesn’t hurt, either, so take advantage of the sunshine if you can.
Exercise ideas: Dancing, biking, meditation/yoga
How to Repair Damaged Brain Cells
Dancing is one way to repair damaged brain cells, if it’s possible like some scientists and doctors speculate. Here’s how to get started grooving.
- Identify what kind of music you really like. What do you find yourself naturally dancing to?
- There are plenty of workouts based around dancing. Find one that suits you.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes as you begin your dancing adventures. You’ll want to be comfortable.
- If you can, recruit a partner to learn the dance with you. Makes it more fun.
- Get grooving.
Watch how to do the salsa
19. Stay Socially Engaged
Being socially engaged is good for the brain, and exercise plays a big role in that. Plenty of the exercises we’ve suggested here so far have been solitary in nature and aren’t the most social activities. They’re still good for you, but they won’t keep you socially engaged.
This is important because those connections with other people produce endorphins in our brain just like they do when we exercise for a long time.
So why not combine the two?
Exercise ideas: Tennis, pickleball, golf
How to Stay Socially Engaged
Pickleball is exploding as a sport all over the world. The rules might seem a little complicated at first, but learning them alongside a friend will be great for your social engagement. Here’s how to get started.
- Get your hands on a pickleball set, just starting with two paddles and a handful of balls.
- Find a tennis court with pickleball lines. Most of the newer courts have pickleball lines painted on them.
- Can’t find a court with legit pickleball lines? Most outdoor, public hard courts are OK with using washable chalk to draw the lines on the court.
- Learn the rules.
- Start playing.
Watch how to play pickleball
20. Improve Cognitive Flexibility
Cognitive flexibility is a person’s ability to change between types of thought and to also simultaneously think about multiple concepts at once.
You can easily tie cognitive flexibility to the ability to multitask, which is important in our day-to-day lives.
Researchers from the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology found that people who are regularly active tend to have more variable brain structure than their peers.
Exercise ideas: Kettlebell workout, medicine ball workout, HIIT workout
How to Improve Cognitive Flexibility
Cognitive flexibility is somewhat different because it needs intense exercise to jump-start that part of the brain, but only for 20 minutes. For that, let’s look at a kettlebell workout.
- First things first, find the right kettlebell weight for your workout. You just need one to begin with.
- Start with kettlebell squats holding the actual ball between your hands.
- Alternate arms with kettlebell swings, a controlled, one-hand swing using both arms, letting the ball drop between your legs and swing out to almost chest level.
- Finish up with kettlebell swings using both hands on the handle.
- Do each of these for three reps of 10, or whatever feels comfortable.
Watch how to do a kettlebell workout
21. Increase the Flow of Blood to Your Brain
Have you ever finished exercising and realized you’re thinking much, much clearer than before? That’s no accident.
All of that work increased the flow of blood to your brain, which means more energy and more oxygen, which means you’re able to process information a lot quicker and you’re thinking a lot better after getting a workout in.
This process goes back to evolution and our ancestors, who needed to be thinking at their sharpest when they were either chasing predators (to eat) or running from predators (to avoid being eaten).
Exercise ideas: Swimming, yoga, wall sits
How to Increase the Flow of Blood to Your Brain
Do wall sits. This is probably the exercise that looks the easiest but is actually the hardest. And if you’ve ever seen someone doing wall sits, and how red their face gets, you know they’re getting the blood moving. Here’s how it should go.
- Make sure your back is flat against the wall.
- Set feet shoulder-width apart, about two feet out from the wall.
- Slide your back down the wall, bending legs until they’re at a 90-degree angle, but get as close to that as you feel comfortable to begin with.
- Hold your position and contract your abs as long as you can.
- Stand up slowly while still leaning against the wall.
Watch how to do a wall sit
22. Executive Function Can Improve
In our brains, executive function is what reigns over memory, flexible thinking and self-control.
These are skills we use the most in our daily life, and trouble with executive function can make it harder to follow directions and handle emotions.
Scientists have proven that consistent aerobic exercise can slow down the deterioration of executive function in the brain as we age — starting at 20 years old and going into our late 60s.
Exercise ideas: Cycling, running stairs, elliptical machine
How to Improve Executive Function
Try riding a bicycle. This can be good for executive function because you have to think and you also get the aerobic exercise we’re talking about.
- Get yourself a bicycle. If you aren’t sure if you want to buy one, bicycles are easy to rent for a day to see if you do, and most bicycle rentals will deliver it to you.
- Make sure you wear a helmet.
- Plot out your course before you go, but don’t worry about changing it up if you see another route you want to try. Don’t get lost!
- Don’t push it too hard on your first time out.
- There’s also the stationary bike options, which are plentiful.
Watch how to ride a bike
23. Sleep Better
It’s common knowledge that exercise helps you sleep better, and also helps you sleep for longer, uninterrupted stretches of time.
The reason for this is that by naturally raising your blood temperature slightly, you allow it to drop naturally as well, which triggers sleepiness.
On the flip side, depriving your brain of the sleep that it needs and thrives on cuts down on your brain’s executive functions and slows connections between neurons.
Exercise ideas: Tai chi, basketball, weightlifting
How to Sleep Better
Tai chi has long been credited with being an exercise that helps aid sleep. It’s a part of martial arts and is known for practicing long, slow, concentrated movements. Here’s how to get started.
- Start by using another of the best exercises for the brain — meditation.
- Understand the basic tai chi position for most moves, which is hands cupped like a beak, with four fingers almost touching your thumb and your arms at shoulder level and spread like loose wings.
- The most basic tai chi move is called the single whip. In this move, every point along your upper arms and torso is the end of a whip, ready to explode and strike out at any second. Move your arms back and forth slowly, in the basic tai chi position, focusing on this thought.
- Pouring is a basic tai chi move that focuses on the lower body. Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. Then try and "pour" all of your weight onto one leg and hold. After a few breaths, move to the opposite leg. Be aware of your balance at all times.
Watch how to do tai chi
24. Stimulate Creativity
On its most basic level, exercise encourages nerve cells in the brain to bind to one another, which is the simple formula for how we’re able to process new information.
And in order to write a book or learn how to play an instrument and compose music, we need to create and learn new ways of doing things.
Studies done by Leiden University in the Netherlands have shown students who exercised on a regular basis showed marked improvements in divergent and convergent thinking, which is generally credited with creativity.
Exercise ideas: Boxing, kickboxing, taekwondo
How to Stimulate Creativity
Try a boxing class. Just don’t actually get in the ring! We don’t want anyone getting hurt, but here’s how you can go about trying on the sweetest science to boost your creative side and get a great aerobic workout.
- There are light sparring gloves or hand wraps you can get for about $20 and are simple to put on by yourself, but you don’t need them to do the workout.
- Assume the sparring position, fists up just like you’re about to actually fight and dominant foot forward.
- Set timers for your workout and start simple — 30 seconds of jabs with your right, then 30 seconds of jabs with your left, then rest. Repeat this three times.
- As your workout goes on, mix up your combinations. Feel free to get creative and try to be consistent with the number of reps you do.
Watch how to do boxing exercises
25. Exercise Makes It Easier for Kids to Learn: Part I
Dr. John Ratey called exercise "Miracle-Gro for the brain" after a study by Harvard Medical School looked at the impact exercise had on the brains of children.
According to the research, exercise built new brain cells in a brain region called the dentate gyrus, which is important for children because that’s where the capacity for memory and memory loss is established for life.
Exercise also stimulates nerves that influence growth and delivers oxygen and glucose to the brain for heightened alertness and mental focus, making it easier for kids to learn.
Exercise ideas: Sprints, sit-ups, broad jumps
How to Do Exercises for Kids: Part I
Start the exercise for kids by figuring out who the fastest is and having them run sprints against each other. Here’s one way it could go.
- Pair kids in the class together by age for the races. You can separate boys and girls or have them race against each other. It’s all good exercise.
- Set a reasonable distance. For sprints, let’s say 50 meters (54.7 yards), or 50 yards.
- Use your smartphone as a stopwatch and record winning times.
- Announce the best times at the end for each age division.
- Encourage the kids to keep exercising.
Watch sprint drills for kids
26. Exercise Makes it Easier for Kids to Learn: Part II
The University of Illinois conducted a study that showed there is a strong relationship between high fitness scores and top-level academic achievement in primary school children.
Exercise can increase your child’s strength, flexibility and endurance, but what it does for their brain may be even more beneficial.
More studies have shown that cardiovascular fitness in young adulthood goes hand-in-hand with cognition, and the earlier kids get started down that path, the better.
Exercise ideas: Inchworms, bench step-ups, push-ups
How to Do Exercises for Kids: Part II
Start the exercise for kids by having them do an inchworm. Here’s how to do it.
- Bend forward at the hips and place your hands on the ground with knees slightly bent.
- Walk your hands out in front of you until you’re in plank position.
- Walk your feet up to meet your hands.
Watch how to do an inchworm for kids
27. Process Things Quicker
Improving cardiovascular health through exercise is the single most important factor in being able to understand the information presented to us at a rapid pace.
Because we exercise, the neurons in our brain connect at a much faster rate than if we lived a sedentary lifestyle. Therefore, when someone who exercises receives a new piece of information, they are going to understand it much more quickly than someone who does not exercise.
The benefits of this in a work environment seem to be the easiest to point to — who wouldn’t want to be quicker-thinking at your job?
Exercise ideas: Yoga, golf, tennis
How to Process Things Quicker
Let’s try to play some golf. It incorporates using your body and your mind really well. Here’s how to get out on the links.
- Get some clubs. You might know someone who has some you can borrow or you can rent them.
- If you can’t get your hands on a full set, you can make do with a driver, 7 iron, pitching wedge, and a putter. Hybrid clubs, for mid-range shots, are really helpful to beginners.
- There are public courses almost everywhere. Schedule a tee time.
- Make sure you hit some practice balls beforehand — on the driving range and on the putting greens.
- Stretch. Tee it up. You’re now a golfer.
Watch how to drive a golf ball
28. Understand Directions and Maps Better
Learning directions and learning how to read maps has become a lost art in the age of smartphones, but it’s still a pretty impressive skill.
New generations will never know the joy of successfully plotting out a road trip. But these are still useful skills to have and the cognitive function we need to do so can be enhanced through regular exercise.
This can be really helpful if you’re going to start hiking and going on long bike rides, where there’s always a chance of getting lost.
Exercise ideas: Hiking, biking, burpees
How to Understand Directions and Maps Better at Home
Burpees could change your life. They’re a great, full-body movement exercise that you need very little space to do. Start with teaching yourself how to do one, then build up from there.
- Start out in a low squat position with hands on the floor.
- Next, jump your feet back to a push-up position, complete one push-up, then go back to the original squat position.
- Leap up as high as possible, then return to the starting position.
- Try to do five burpees in a row when you get the hang of it, then keep adding.
Watch how to do a burpee
29. Improve Brain Function If You're Overweight or Obese
If you become overweight or obese, you understand not only the physical toll it takes on your body and joints but the toll it takes out of you mentally.
You get tired easier. You don’t get as good of sleep because you’re always waking up during the night. You might see lapses in judgment as far as work or processing information as quickly as your colleagues.
While exercise will take time and effort in order to see long-term results physically, it can help your brain start to function better almost immediately. And those results will be apparent much, much quicker.
Exercise ideas: Walking, water aerobics, stationary bike
How to Improve Brain Function if You’re Overweight or Obese
Try some water aerobics. It won’t be too hard on your joints. Here’s how to do it.
- Find a local YMCA or recreation center that offers water aerobics.
- Pick a class and a time that works best for your schedule.
- Keep in mind you don’t need to know how to swim to do most of these classes, since they’re done in the shallow end.
- If a class isn’t for you, there are easy ways to learn simple resistance exercises you can do in the water.
- And if you don't have access to water, you can start with a simple, low-impact, beginner aerobic activity like walking.
Watch how to do water aerobics
30. Help Offset the Effects of PTSD
Almost 10 out of every 100 Americans will be affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, with the number of females impacted by PTSD almost doubling that of males.
Dealing with trauma is a complicated, personal issue for anyone affected by PTSD, but more and more, we are seeing that exercise can help those suffering with PTSD through their healing process.
Exercise ideas: Pranayama breathing, walking dogs, hiking
How to Offset the Affects of PTSD Through Exercise
Do Pranayama breathing. A study from the University of New Mexico identified this as an excellent exercise for PTSD sufferers. Here’s how it’s done.
- Place one hand on the abdomen above the navel to feel it being pushed out during inhalations.
- Focus on breathing and expanding the rib cage during inhalations.
- Try placing the edge of your hands along the rib cage to focus on the expansion and breathing correctly.
- If you’re doing this correctly, the expansion will occur laterally.
Watch how to do Pranayama breathing