There is enough research out there to tell you how good exercise is for your body, but do you know just how good exercise is for your brain?

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recently held a webinar called “The Astonishing Effects of Exercise on the Brain” with keynote speaker Dr. Wendy Suzuki, who is a neuroscientist at New York University.

Through many years of research on lab rats and finally, human subjects, she (and her team) were able to determine that when you exercise, it moves oxygen around your body, especially in the most oxygen-utilizing region: the brain. As a result, the hippocampus (an area of the brain responsible for memory) actually creates new brain cells!

After just one bout of exercise, the neurotransmitters of the brain are stimulated for up to 120 minutes post exercise. These neurotransmitters are responsible for helping you to relax, bring your stress level down, and improve your mood, focus, attention and reaction time. Dr. Suzuki compared this to giving your brain a bubble bath of beneficial neurochemicals!

The long-term benefits of exercise on the brain help to give a positive effect (improving emotions), exercise motivation (wanting to keep exercising), positive body attitude and recognition memory. Exercise influences whole-brain alpha activity. Alpha activity means there is a relaxation association to the brain. Lastly, it has a protective effect. With the birth of hippocampal cells, the prefrontal and temporal cortexes improve, too, which can help stave off Alzheimer’s disease.

The ACSM recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly. Moderate intensity is dependent on each person’s level of activity – if you are more sedentary, ease into your exercise program, but you should be able to pass the “talk test” and continue a conversation. It is always recommended to speak to your physician before starting a new exercise program.