Exercise Makes You Smarter


imageAside from feeling more alive, I always feel sharper when I exercise regularly.

It turns out that there’s science behind this.

Exercise is of the most dramatic ways to get smarter.

In Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, Dr. John Medina says that aerobic exercise is one of the best ways to boost your brain.

Why Does Exercise Make You Smarter?

Why does exercise improve your cognition?

According to Dr. Medina, there are two key reasons:

  1. It increases oxygen flow (and this reduces brain-bound free radicals)
  2. It increases your neurons’ creation, survival and resistance to damage and stress.

To Get Smarter, Exercise 20 Minutes, Twice a Week

To get smarter, the minimum you need for an extreme benefit is 20 minutes, twice a week.

The data behind his story is amazing.

Dr. Medina uses data-driven decisions to find out what works–What really, really works.

You can see some of his amazing data in his book and in his videos.

Key Take Aways

Here are the key points:

  1. Exercise makes you smarter.  Exercisers outperform couch-potatoes in terms of problem-solving, long-term memory, reasoning, attention, and abstract thinking.  Check out the Chart – Exercise and Cognition (Sedentary vs. Exercise).
  2. Exercise is the independent variable that improves your brain function.  When you exercise regularly, your brain function goes up.  When you stop exercising regularly, it goes down.  Check out the Chart – Exercise as Independent Variable
  3. Exercise needs to be aerobic.  You need to do a minimum of 20 minutes, twice a week — toning or just lifting weights doesn’t do it.  Check out the Chart – Executive Function (Aerobic vs. Toning).

If you want to work on your smarts, work on your body.

Working on your body, is working on your mind.


  1. Good one and makes ton of sense.
    Was teaching my daughter to ride a bike w/o help wheels. That means I was running a lot today ;), that means ton of aerobic exercise 😉
    Now, how do I measure I get smarter? – LOL!

  2. Oh, yes running regularly is like re-birth for me;-)
    Thanks for scientific confirmation of it J.D.

  3. oh, I really need to get back into my exercise routine, thanks for the reminder. Haven’t been to the gym forever, but I do yoga at home and run around after a 3 year old every day , so things are not that bad:)

  4. Hi JD .. isn’t it so important .. I really must build some in – when the warmer weather comes .. lots of exercise to do in the house – decluttering – chucking out loads .. so running up and down stairs.

    It will happen .. thanks for reminding me – Hilary

  5. Hello JD-

    Exercise is in my daily routine. Running on the treadmill, cross-trainer, cycling, swimming and skipping. Exercise is required to live healthy life. I feel energetic all day long and can get more done out of the day. As compared to when I do less exercise or due to some commitment I miss it.

    Bye for now,
    Cheryl Paris

  6. @ Alik

    It sounds like you got your workout for the day!

    @ Ivana

    There sure is something sweet knowing the science is on your side.

    @ Lana

    The beauty is now you know it’s more than your body … it’s your brain, too. Talk about motivation.

    @ Mars

    It sounds like you’re really keeping your brain in shape.

    @ Hilary

    It’s great how now the stairs can go from your enemy to your friend.

    @ Cheryl

    You cover quite the gamut — even skipping! Your brain must be loving you for it!

  7. hi jd
    i exercise regularly in two sessions morning and evening ,i feel exhilarating joy and relaxation when i do that.i feel its gr8 to hear from the science perspective too.

  8. I LOVE exercising!! And this only solidifies further why I love to, comes as no surprise the science behind it. Oxygen to the free radicals — gimme some of that!!

  9. I agree with this 100% and now exercise is listed as the #1 curative for depression and emotional problems….what does that tell us?

  10. @ Kevin

    It’s great to have science on our side.

    @ Jannie

    I love the fact we can build up our internal armies and whip those radicals.

    @ Patricia

    I’ve always been a fan of the mind-body-emotion connection and it’s great to see the science back it.

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