It turns out that keeping your body strong might also have benefits for your brain. According to a June 2016 study conducted by New York University's Langone Medical Center, exercise increases the production of a substance that encourages neurons to grow and remain strong, which allows the brain to function better overall.
This substance, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, surges during exercise, The New York Times reports. The study compared two groups of mice -- one group was allowed access to a running wheel and the other group was not. After four weeks, scientists studied the brain tissue from each group and found that the active mice had much higher levels of BDNF.
Although the study was done on mice, scientists believe it's possible that the implications of this study could be extended to humans.
“It’s incredible just how pervasive and complex the effects of exercise are on the brain,” Moses Chao, director of the study, told The New York Times.
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After an hour or more of strenuous and vigorous exercise, the body stops relying on stores of sugar for energy and switches to burning fat, which creates a byproduct known as ketone. When ketone enters the brain, scientists found that it will break down barriers of fat that form around the BDNF genes. As a result, BDNF will be released and subsequently attach to neurons, making them stronger.
According to the Herald Sun, exercise can have other beneficial effects on the brain. Any type of exercise -- not only strenuous activity -- can boost a person's memory and help stave off dementia.
“We are only starting to understand [how exercise alters the brain]," said Chao to the New York Times. No matter what type of exercise, he recommends to “just keep moving.”