New research suggests exercise makes you smarter

We know that regular exercise can help the human body ward off a slew of physical ailments including heart disease, obesity, certain types of cancer, diabetes and hypertension. Now, along with the benefits to our bodies, new studies show that exercise can be just as beneficial to our brains.

Until recently, the only link scientists had to connect exercise and brain function was the fact that aerobic activity increases the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain and nourishes brain cells. A recent study is suggesting that exercise helps brain cells form new connections, increasing the brain’s capacity for knowledge, according to an article at HRGuru.

Neurologist Scott Small from the Columbia University Medical Center and Fred Gage of the Salk Institute co-authored the study that illustrates how exercise could improve our ability to learn and develop.

Here’s a breakdown of what happens to your brain as you exercise:

  1. As you exercise, your muscles contract.
  2. This releases chemicals, including a protein called IGF-1.
  3. IGF-1 travels to the brain and stimulates the release of several chemicals, including brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF).
  4. Regular exercise increases levels of BDNF.
  5. BDNF stimulates neurons (brain cells) to branch and connect in new ways.
  6. New junctions between neurons are the basis of learning.

“Bodies that exercise regularly stimulate brains to have higher levels of BDNF; brains with higher levels of BDNF have greater capacity for knowledge,” explains author Kristin Wehner, “Healthy & Wealthy” columnist at

If you’ve been looking for more reasons to encourage employees to start exercising, you can now add knowledge to the list. It may involve a small investment, but promoting exercise with an employee wellness program will pay itself back in reduced health care costs, a boost in productivity, and an even smarter workforce than what you have now.

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