Student Life

Your Brain on Exercise

You’re having one of those weeks. You know the kind: two essays due on the same day, a midterm the next, three quizzes, and a group project. These “hell weeks” as I like to call them are stressful, daunting, and even nauseating. You may feel like exercise is the easiest thing to ignore when catering to your busy schedule, but recent studies say disregarding your workout routine could hurt you in the long run.

For years, studies have shown that exercise can help with stress, focus, and overall mental health, but scientists have recently proven exercise can actually improve thinking. Exercise increases a substance called Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor, or B.D.N.F, that strengthens cells and axons, fortifies the connections among neurons, and sparks neurogenesis, or the birth of neurons. Researchers have found that after working out, people have higher amounts of B.D.N.F. in their bloodstream.

A 2007 study of mice highlights the benefits of B.D.N.F. New brain cells in mice looped into the animals’ neural networks when they learned a new task, such as navigating through a maze, but these brain cells only allowed the learning required to navigate through a maze. After the mice ran on a wheel, however, their brains wired many neurons into the neural network. These brain cells were not engaged only when running, but during a variety of activities. Running allowed the mice to create brain cells that could multitask. Not all science involving exercise is understood, but scientists believe B.D.N.F. explains all of the brain activity associated with exercise.

Exercise also decreases stress levels, helps you focus, releases endorphins, and makes you feel energized and ready to finish that huge pile of homework. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed by your workload, take a break and go for a quick run to mentally prepare yourself. If anything, your brain will thank you in the future.

By Morgan Chamberlain