Why Exercise? Brain Health + Happiness

Let’s admit it: exercise can be a total hassle. We need a different set of clothing. It takes time out of our over-charged, highly-tasked, precious day. We get sweaty inconveniencing our wardrobe choices. And by the way, who wants to take two showers a day. We lose time with errands, work projects, and additional rest. Some of us feel stupid or uncoordinated doing it.

Worst of all, IT IS HARD and IT “HURTS.”

I love what I do. I show people how to exercise correctly. I like to exercise. Yet, I realize there are many who do not enjoy exercise. This article is for you!

I have two new reasons to start exercising: it can increase brain health AND it can make you happy.

Numerous studies have proven exercise is very good for the brain. I wrote a piece on increased white matter in the brain. White matter is the subway system for the brain steering communication. Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles and other institutions studied 900 individuals over the course of 10 years and included M.R.I. brain scans. The researchers tracked their exercise and their brain scans. Exercise included walking, dancing, gardening, swimming and cycling.

Turns out the most active quartile of those studied revealed increased grey matter in parts of the brain which is responsible for memory and higher level thinking. More gray matter is generally equated with greater brain health.

Even better, brain scans showed substantially greater increases in grey matter with those whose physical activity increased over the course of 5 years.

Need I say more? Get up and take a walk. Crank up the music and dance in the mirror!


When you exercise, your brain recognizes it as a moment of stress. As humans, we are built for “fight” or “flight”. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). The job of the BDNF is to protect and repair your memory neurons and act as a reset switch. When it does its job, we feel relaxed, things are clearer and eventually we feel happy.

In addition, endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, is released in your brain. Your endorphins main purpose is to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria.

Furthermore, a study by New York Times Columnist Gretchen Reynolds (super smart on health and wellness issues!), opines that 20 minutes is all we need to reach that brain love of happiness. So for those of you who do not have an exercise program or have taken a long break from one, this is your study!

Reynolds says “The first 20 minutes of moving around provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk — all of those things come in the first 20 minutes of being active.”

If increasing your brain health and making you a happier person isn’t enough reasons to start exercising, how about all these other FUN benefits. . . just to name a few:

* being more confident
* meeting new people
* trying out a sport that you’ve always wanted to do
* breathing fresh air out doors
* wearing something sleeveless with confidence
* sleeping better and feeling rested
* walking up a flight of stairs without gasping for air
* fitting into an old pair of jeans
* clearing your mind
* exploring a new city or a new location in your area

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