"Miracle-Gro for the brain"...

The Simple Way to Keep Your Mind Sharp


Can exercise keep your mind sharp? 

If someone figured out a way to cram all the benefits of exercise into a pill, it would be so popular and beneficial everyone would take it. 

Admittedly, I’m biased, because I love exercising, but it wasn’t always that way. My dad had to drag me to the gym and I hated every minute...at first. 
But like most difficult things that we try and try again, I got better at it and actually started to enjoy it. Today, it’s something I look forward to. 

When I exercise, I get to take a mental break from the world. I find I have more energy throughout the day, I’m in a better mood, I sleep like a baby, and I’m not as stressed out. 

So what is exercise actually doing for the mind?

Well, according to Dr. John J. Ratey’s book Spark, exercise increases BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). 
BDNF is “Miracle-Gro for the brain,” according to Ratey. BDNF sparks the growth of new neurons, synapses, and brain cells - which is vital to learning, memory, and higher thinking. 

  • One study found that just three 60-minute sessions of exercise increased memory.1 

  • In women between the ages of 60-78 years old, exercise increased cognition, brain size, and power.2 

  • Another study found that elderly people who engaged in aerobic exercise had bigger brains. 3 

  • Not surprisingly, people who exercise have lower rates of age-related memory and cognitive decline compared to sedentary people.4 


Other than exercise, what else can help boost BDNF? 

  • Learning something new
  • A good night’s sleep (exercise improves sleep, too!)
  • Getting some sun
  • Stress reduction (some studies show Fish Oil, Ginseng, and Turmeric may boost BDNF)

All in all, exercise looks like the key to a long, healthy life for your body and mind. I’ll leave you with this quote by Plato


  1. Anderson, Elizabeth, and Geetha Shivakumar. “Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, Frontiers Media S.A., 23 Apr. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632802/.

  2. Burzynska AZ;Wong CN;Chaddock-Heyman L;Olson EA;Gothe NP;Knecht A;Voss MW;McAuley E;Kramer AF; “White Matter Integrity, Hippocampal Volume, and Cognitive Performance of a World-Famous Nonagenarian Track-and-Field Athlete.” Neurocase, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26237526/.

  3. Chapman, Sandra B., et al. “Distinct Brain and Behavioral Benefits from Cognitive vs. Physical Training: A Randomized Trial in Aging Adults.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 20 June 2016, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00338/full.

  4. Colcombe, Stanley J., et al. “Aerobic Exercise Training Increases Brain Volume in Aging Humans.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Nov. 2006, academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/61/11/1166/630432.





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