How Exercise Changes Your Brain

Imagine, for a moment, an intelligent individual standing in front of you.

In fact, let’s say this person is a downright brainiac. Perhaps even a genius.

Are you picturing this person right now?

Great… so let me ask you something:

Are you imagining a scrawny someone with horn-rimmed glasses, a pocket protector, and a general demeanor that screams “Take my lunch money, please”?…

… Or are you picturing a more muscular, athletic person?

Chances are it’s the former. And you’re not alone. Ever since school, most of us associate intelligence with a comparatively neglected body. After all, working with your mind and working with your muscles are two entirely different things, right?

Science is showing this isn’t so much the case. In fact, clinical evidence is beginning to reveal just how crucial exercise is to keeping your mind sharp, fit, and functioning throughout your life.

Surprised? Consider this:

According to research from Yale University, Alzheimer’s may begin when the small blood vessels in your brain break down.

What improves blood flow?


So it shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn regular exercise is associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s. It might be even more important than what you eat.

In a mouse study out of the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, exercise was more effective at reducing amyloid plaque than diet, and both exercise and diet had about the same effect on amyloid as exercise alone. Amyloid plaque may be a major villain in causing Alzheimer’s.

But those are just mice. What about humans?

Earlier, we discussed the hippocampus and its crucial role in memory. In a new study, scientists measured the size of the hippocampus in volunteers. They then kept track of their physical activity for 18 months.

The results were eerie:

The “high-risk” group (with the APOE-e4 allele) that sat on their duffs for 18 months experienced hippocampus shrinkage to the tune of 3 percent. The other three groups were fine, including the high-risk group that exercised.

Exercise helps even if you start late — as late as 80 years of age.

Researchers from Rush University Medical Center measured the activity of seniors with an average age of 82. Then, over the next 41 months, they kept track of who developed Alzheimer’s.

According to Medical News Today, they found “the 10 percent least physically active seniors in their study were 2.3 times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, compared with the 10 percent most active.”

It gets even more interesting:

“They also found that exercise intensity impacted on Alzheimer’s risk. Those in the bottom 10 percent of physical activity intensity were 2.8 times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s, compared with those in the top 10 percent.”

So what kind of exercise is best?

One study comparing two different exercise routines gives a surprising answer.

Researchers divided 120 older adults into two groups. The first performed a year-long routine of walking. The second group did stretching, yoga, dumbbell and resistance band exercises, and even an exercise of their choice. For the latter group, the routine was switched every three weeks and how hard they exercised varied.

So… when it came to brain health… which group fared better when the year was over?

The group that merely walked.

Surprising, eh?

I dug a little deeper, and I have a couple theories as to why.

First of all, let’s not beat up on walking too much. It’s a fantastic exercise, and walking continuously for 40 minutes is no walk in the park, so to speak. (Unless it’s literally done in a park.)

Second of all… I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during the stretching, yoga, and dumbbells sessions. According to the researchers, the participants were “encouraged to exercise at an appropriate intensity of 13–15 on the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion scale…”

OK. What does that mean?

Long story short, they simply might not have been pushing themselves hard enough. When it comes to weight training generally you lift the weight until you can’t lift it anymore… not until you feel you’re working “rather hard.”

But that still doesn’t answer the paradox of walking being so effective for brain health. If you busted out the Borg scale for that, it’d probably rank at a 10… maybe an 11. Is there something special about walking?

Perhaps there is. Researchers from Stanford University found walking boosts creative output 60 percent, a definite sign of its positive impact on the brain.

They published their findings in a study called Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking. An inspired title, for sure.

So here’s your prescription for better brain health (and unlike the dangerous drugs foisted on us by Big Pharma, this one’s free):

Start walking. I recommend a scenic path where you can enjoy yourself for 40 minutes.

Now let’s say you’re exercising and challenging your brain regularly. Is there anything else you can do to protect your memory and stave off Alzheimer’s?


Certain nutrients have astounded scientists because of their brain-enhancing properties. In the next installment of Secrets to Better Brain Health, we’re going to cover three that you need to start taking right now. The first two increase your brain power, and the third helps prevent your brain from shrinking! Seriously.

Our health maven Natalie Moore will fill you in. You do not want to miss this. Tune in tomorrow.


Nate Rifkin
Underground Health Researcher

Chris Campbell

Written By Nate Rifkin

Nate Rifkin is an obsessed health and mind-power researcher and author. To hear more from Nate, sign up to receive Living Well Daily for free, here.