Does Exercise Make You Smarter?

Nerd Alert: New research explains how exercise may boost brain performance.

We all know that exercise improves muscle performance, but how does it impact your brain? A new body of research published in American Journal of Physiology explores the question.

It’s no secret that regular exercise increases the number of organelles called mitochondria in muscle cells. Since these mitochondria create energy, an increase in their quantity can help explain increases in strength and endurance. But according to new research, the increase in mitochondria isn’t just limited to muscle cells. Data suggests that regular exercise also increases the number of mitochondria in brain cells.

Researchers divided mice into two groups. One group exercised one hour per day on an incline treadmill (sounds like the next viral YouTube video), six days a week. The other group was sedentary, and remained caged during the exercise hour. Otherwise, the mice experienced identical conditions.

Not surprisingly, the fit mice showed increased mitochondria in their muscle cells. But quite surprisingly, the fit mice also showed “several positive markers of mitochondria increase in the brain.”

If these findings apply to humans, researchers speculate that increased mitochondria in brains cells may boost exercise performance by reducing brain fatigue. But it also means that exercise could become an effective treatment for psychiatric disorders, genetic disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases.

According to the study’s authors:

These findings could lead to the enhancement of athletic performance through reduced mental and physical fatigue, as well as to the expanded use of exercise as a therapeutic option to attenuate the negative effects of aging, and the treatment and/or prevention of neurological diseases.

In short, it’s yet another reason to get off your butt and give your body the gift of movement.

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  1. I can totally see how the 2 correlate. its just like during the “runners high”, after a while your brain realizes that you are not doing anything to hurt the body and starts to relase endorphins and other hormones to increase speed, stamina and other natural performance enhancement hormones to help you keep going. some runners even say they think more clearly during or after a run, i know i do.

  2. Dang! I know I knew it….just can’t conquer the lazy bug!! I am gonna keep trying because I know this to be true!! Thanks Davey!!!!

  3. This was soooo interesting! Funny how we as a society think that exercise fatigues us, but in reality it’s effects are opposite! Hey, who is the sexy nerd in the picture? Anyone know who he is, he is deadly!

  4. Do you know him Davey? Or do you randomly just pick pictures from like Google Images?

  5. christopher says:

    these findings are so true-and i have proof positive-my doctor is taking me off anti-depressants-by next year i just maybe free of the meds.why?im walking/jogging-going to health club daily.ive noticed a huge improvement in my confidence in speech-my jock friends can tell you that.they are my best life cheerleaders-they luv my body transformation-i get more compliments from my 20-something friends than those couch potatoes i know.yes these findings are spot on.there is no such thing as dumb jocks.with one third obesity population in this country-why would anyone call people who workout dumb?my weight loss goal-i have 29lbs to go.and today i had to put another notch-or hole into my belt.why?my big pants are falling off my ass-thats why.