How to Build a Better Brain with Exercise

If you want to build a better brain, you won’t go wrong with exercise. We’ve seen study after study on how the brain benefits from exercise:

“Exercise—especially aerobic exercise—is fantastic for the brain, increasing executive function scores anywhere from 50 percent to 100 percent.” – John Medina, Brain Rules for Baby

What kind of exercises help build a better brain?

Build a Better Brain with Exercise

Image Source: Conscious Life News

We use to think that physical activity that required more “mental effort” or brain coordination (like playing tennis or basketball) would trump repetitive exercises like running or swimming when it came to cognitive benefits. New research suggests otherwise – not only do runners’ brains have greater functional connectivity than non-runners’ brains:

MRI scans show that running may affect the structure and function of the brain in ways similar to complex tasks such as playing a musical instrument.

Previous studies have shown that activities that require fine motor control, such as playing a musical instrument, or that require high levels of hand-eye coordination, such as playing golf, can alter brain structure and function. However, fewer studies have looked at the effects of more repetitive athletic activities that don’t require as much precise motor control — such as running. [These] findings suggest that these types of activities could have a similar effect.

Science Daily

When it comes to brain benefits from exercise, it would seem that Nike had it right all along: Just do it! From yoga to rock climbing, just about any form of exercise can enhance the brain. Research across the board supports the brain boosting effects from all kinds of physical activity:

If we can build a better brain with any exercise, is there a minimum quantity that we need to reap the benefits?

How much exercise to build a better brain?

According to a study from the University of Georgia, even exercising briefly for 20 minutes can facilitate information processing and memory functions. If you want to improve your memory, another study suggests 120 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week. The study by Cameron et al. 2014, found that moderate physical activity, including brisk walking, at least five days a week for at least 30 minutes should be our minimum target, even if we’re young twenty-somethings at the prime of brain function.