How working out affects your brain


Kylie Kost/Iowa State Daily

Daily does kickboxing. Reporter Amanda Wymore tries out kickboxing at State Gym on Jan. 19.

Emily Clement

There are many ways that working out can affect your brain and mental health.

According to the Huffington Post website, exercising does many different things to help your mental health:

  • Reduces stress – A short walk through the neighborhood is one of the easiest stress relievers. Norepinephrine is a chemical that is released in your brain when you exercise and can moderate the brain’s response to stress.
  • Improves self-confidence – Any exercise is an easy way to boost your self-confidence. After a workout, you immediately feel a boost in your self-esteem and you picture a positive self-image of yourself.
  • Boosts “happy chemicals” – A quick run on the treadmill can release endorphins, which are supposed to create feelings of happiness. Because of this, doctors recommend that anyone dealing with depression or anxiety should make time for exercise in their daily routine. It is said that exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills.
  • Boosts brainpower – Studies show that exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance. Studies also show that tough workouts can increase levels of BDNF, a brand-derived protein, which can help with decision-making and higher thinking.
  • Increases relaxation – It is possible for a moderate workout to be the same as taking a sleeping pill. Moving around just five to six hours before going to bed can raise the body’s core temperature, which signals the body that it is time to sleep.
  • Helps control addiction – The brain releases dopamine, which is what “rewards” the body for any form of pleasure. Because this becomes addicting, people may rely on the substances that produce it. But, short workouts can distract the addict from the substance, which will result in fewer cravings. As said in the previous point, exercise can also regulate an addict’s sleep if it has been off from the addiction.
  • Sharpens memory – Getting exercise and being sweaty increases the production of cells in the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning. It is has also been proved by a study that running sprints can improve vocabulary among adults. 

Check out the lecture, “Using Exercise to Treat Depression,” at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Richard and Joan Stark Lecture Hall in the Gerdin Business Building to find out more.

James Blumenthal, a clinical psychologist, will be sharing his knowledge on how exercise affects mental health.

If you can’t make it to the lecture, check out the article from the Iowa State Daily on Friday morning.