Why Exercising Makes You Smarter (And Happier): A Study Based Off 1.2M Adults

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A study that engaged 1.2 million adults over 4 years found that exercise makes you happier and it's suggested that it makes your smarter as well. Keep reading to learn how extra time in the gym will help tighten your body and open your mind.

Working Out May Be the Missing Piece to Your Study Regime

Exercise is known to have many physical benefits. Now a recent study has found a correlation between working out and improved mental health. Over 1.2 million people participated in the research, which concluded that those who engaged in sports, cycling, aerobics, and gym activities were happier.


The improvement in mood also gives your brain the ability to rest, reset, and develop skills that make you smarter. Discover how exercising can trim your waist while improving your capacity for learning.

Improve Your Memory and Thinking 

Isn't it ironic that so many of us forget to exercise when working out has proved to improve your memory? Cardio, especially high-intense intervals, reduces insulin resistance and inflammation. In addition to producing protein, dopamine, and epinephrine, all of which help brain cells grow and survive. Picture it. You run 2 miles, burn 400 calories and ace a test; winning! 


Exercise also enhances your memory indirectly by improving your mood and sleep. The study found that people who exercised reported fewer days of poor mental health than those who did not. Think about it, instead of sitting on the couch, eating chips and watching reruns of your favorite reality show. You could be making friends on a kickball team or learning a new sport.

Improve Your Focus

Mind over matter. If you've ever raced against the shot clock or struggled through a weight set while holding on for dear life, then you know the importance of blocking out distractions and pressures.

Exercise improves your energy and attention by increasing oxygen to the brain and by teaching you to focus. Strength training, endurance, and team sports require focus to be successful. You learn to keep your goal in mind and to overcome challenges. The more you practice focusing your attention on physical activities, the easier it will become to focus your attention when studying or taking a test.

Improve Your Productivity

Your heart is about to pop out your chest, your face is sweaty, and your trainer dares to yell '10 more minutes.' While you're fighting through your burning calves, you're also battling your mind that's screaming for you to stop and embrace the extra 10 pounds. Regular exercise mandates planning and accountability, which enhances your productivity. Learning to endure the process will help you commit to your plans and goals.


Exercise also helps you feel good about yourself. The study found that all types of physical activity lowered the mental health burden. In fact, people felt more productive on the days that they exercised.

Improve Your Patience

Before you get your hopes up, know that none of this will happen overnight. So those jumping jacks you just did will not likely help you cram for tomorrow's exam. However, you should get started sowing the seeds today to reap them tomorrow. The study advises that exercising 45 minutes a day for 3-5 times a week for six months will have significant long-term cognitive benefits.

Improve Your Sleep

If you find that exercise is only tiring you out, then use the exhaustion to your advantage. Instead of working out in the morning or early in the day, switch to the evenings.


Exercise helps reset your sleep cycle to deter stress and tire you. Working out in the sun and high energy activity that raises the body temperature work best, as both trigger sleepiness.

Get Moving, Just Do it.

While exercising can feel burdensome at times, it's a small price to pay when considering the many ways it benefits your overall health. According to the study, when exercising your physical body, your mind gets a good workout as well. So run a few laps, bust out a yoga mat, or take a dance class. Your brain and your body will thank you later.

Visit Study.com to learn more techniques that will help you study smarter and not harder.

By Whitney Stovall
August 2019

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