How does exercise impact mental health?


Exercise impacts mental health through a variety of physiological and psychological mechanisms. While physical exercise may not significantly increase the number of new neurons in human adults, it still offers important benefits, such as increased blood flow to the brain, which is crucial for proper brain function. Resistance training, in particular, is highlighted for stimulating the release of hormones, like osteocalcin, that support the health of existing neurons 1.

Various forms of exercise can support brain health and function. Endurance activities and strength/hypertrophy workouts each have their place, catering to different aspects of brain health 2.

also draws a parallel between physical health and mental health, suggesting that diverse forms of inquiry and exercises are essential to maintain mental well-being, much like a varied physical workout is critical for physical health 3.

Exercise and Brain Health

Andrew discusses the benefits of exercise for brain health, including increased blood flow and the release of hormones that support existing neurons. While exercise may not necessarily increase the number of neurons, it has been shown to have numerous positive effects on brain function and overall health.

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A specific writing exercise protocol, researched in more than 200 studies, has been linked to positive mental changes, like reduced symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and also physical health benefits, particularly related to chronic conditions 4.

After exercising, some individuals experience a kind of brain fog or mental fatigue, which could be related to post-exercise effects on the brain's heating and cooling, impacting cognition. Maintaining an average body and brain temperature seems to be beneficial for cognitive function 5.

In another discussion, details the acute effects of exercise on the brain, such as mood boost, improved prefrontal function, and quicker reaction time. These benefits are reported across various age groups and last up to two hours post-exercise 6.

Moreover, emphasizes that cardiovascular exercise can promote the growth of new neurons in the dentate gyrus area of the hippocampus, which is important for memory formation and consolidation. He suggests that a minimum of 180-200 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week can optimally support this kind of neurogenesis 7.

Lastly, mindset might play a role in the benefits derived from exercise, as a positive mindset may potentially enhance how the body responds physiologically to exercise, though further research in this area was called for 8.