Sarah Maxwell explores how exercise affects your grey matter

Exercise has long been recognised for its positive impact on physical health. However, many recent studies have shown that exercise also has many transformative effects on the brain, so if you thought that Sudoku and brain training exercises were the best way to improve your brain, read on…

Cognitive function
Cognitive function refers to the mental processes and abilities that enable us to perceive, think, reason and remember information. It includes our ability to concentrate, focus attention, enhance memory, problem-solve, and make decisions. Maintaining optimal cognitive function is essential for us to operate at an optimal level and supports our overall wellbeing.
One of the key benefits of exercise is its ability to boost cognitive function, including memory, attention, and concentration. Regular exercise stimulates the brain and promotes the growth of new neurons. It also strengthens neural connections and enhances brain plasticity, which is essential for recovery from injury and aging.

Creativity & problem solving
Exercise has also been found to enhance creativity and problem-solving skills. By stimulating the brain’s ability to generate new ideas and adapt more efficiently, exercise enables the brain to rewire itself effectively.

Sleep magic
Another important aspect of exercise is its impact on sleep. Regular exercise helps regulate sleep patterns, enhances brain function and improves memory. Sleep is crucial for both physical and mental wellbeing, as it allows the body to repair and rejuvenate. It also boosts immune function and promotes proper hormone regulation, which are essential for memory recall.

Stress & emotional regulation
Furthermore, exercise plays a significant role in managing stress and emotions. It not only strengthens the body but also helps us manage stress and regulate our emotions. Exercise increases the production of chemicals in the brain that promote happiness and reduces inflammation in the body. This can benefit the brain and protect against neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Exam success
Exercise is particularly important during exam periods. While studying takes precedence, the stress around exams can impact sleep and memory retention, resulting in reduced performance. Regular exercise can help improve essential sleep, reduce anxiety, enhance memory retention and consolidate revised information. Incorporating exercise into a study timetable daily can be key to achieving success in exams.

So what is the best exercise you can do to boost your brain power?
When it comes to choosing the best exercise to improve brain function, aerobic exercises are highly recommended. Activities such as walking, running, cycling and swimming have numerous benefits. They promote the growth of new brain cells and improve spatial memory by increasing the size of the anterior hippocampus. Additionally, these exercises help preserve important brain areas responsible for cognitive function, which tend to shrink with age.

In a nutshell
By incorporating regular aerobic exercise into out daily lives, we can improve both physical health and brain function. It’s a form of multitasking that benefits the body and mind simultaneously.
If you would like to explore more about this fascinating subject, I highly recommend watching the TED Talk by Wendy Suzuki titled ‘The Brain Changing Benefits of Exercise,’ available at

Sarah Maxwell is a multi-award winning Lifestyle Wellbeing and Fitness coach. You can find her at Get in touch via email at and on social @sarahmaxlife

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