Skip to Content
chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up chevron-right chevron-left arrow-back star phone quote checkbox-checked search wrench info shield play connection mobile coin-dollar spoon-knife ticket pushpin location gift fire feed bubbles home heart calendar price-tag credit-card clock envelop facebook instagram twitter youtube pinterest yelp google reddit linkedin envelope bbb pinterest homeadvisor angies

If someone asked you why you wanted to start exercising, what would you say? Most of the time, our goals are physical, like “I want to lose weight”, “I want to build some muscle”, or “I want to be strong enough to pick up my grandkids”. Those are all good reasons to start moving more, but now you can add “I want to keep my brain healthy” to that list! Studies have shown that your brain gets a wide range of benefits from regular exercise. In honor of Brain Awareness Week, here are 5 benefits of exercise on the brain:

1. Reduce the Risk of Certain Cancers

According to the Center for Disease Control, regular exercise can reduce your risk of many cancers. (Bladder, Breast, Colon, Endometrium, Esophagus, Kidney, Lung, and Stomach cancers to be specific!) By exercising regularly, you could add years to your life!

2. Increased Brain Plasticity

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, is your brain’s ability to evolve and adapt to your experiences. Physical activity facilitates the processes of neuroplasticity in the brain. This leads to increased brain capacity, increased reaction time, and improved memory.

3. Analgesic and Antidepressant Effects

Regular exercise increases dopamine and endocannabinoids levels in your body. Dopamine is the “pleasure chemical” of the brain that improves our mood. Endocannabinoids are natural chemical messengers in the body. One major role of endocannabinoids is regulating pain sensation. Exercising regularly creates more endocannabinoids in the body. So, by exercising regularly, you could be reducing your pain!

4. Improved Memory and Cognitive Processes

Did you know cognitive decline is nearly twice as common in sedentary adults compared to active adults? Exercise is proven to improve memory and recall, coordination, attention, and processing speed.

5. Reverse or Delay Effects of Disease

Evidence shows regular exercise can delay or even reverse symptoms of chronic diseases such as Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s. PT is often prescribed as part of a treatment plan to manage the symptoms of these diseases.

The Takeaway

Exercise is more than just physical. The mental benefits of regular exercise can be the key to healthy aging. If you’re unsure where to start, or have pain that needs to be addressed, physical therapy is a great first step!


Alex M. Azar II, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Olson, R. D., Piercy, K. L., Troiano, R. P., Ballard, R. M., Fulton, J. E., Galuska, D. A., Pfohl, S. Y., Vaux-Bjerke, A., Quam, J. B., George, S. M., Sprow, K., Carlson, S. A., Hyde, E. T., & Olscamp, K. (2018). Physical activity guidelines for Americans. In Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2nd ed.). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Benefits of physical activity for children, adults, and adults 65 and. (2023, July 12). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hötting, K., & Röder, B. (2013). Beneficial effects of physical exercise on neuroplasticity and cognition. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(9), 2243–2257.
Lin, T.-W., Tsai, S.-F., & Kuo, Y.-M. (2018). Physical exercise enhances neuroplasticity and delays Alzheimer’s disease. Brain Plast, 4(1).
Maria De Leigro, C., Schiera, G., Proia, P., & DeLiegro, I. (2019). Physical Activity and Brain Health. National Library of Medicine, 10(9).
Omura, J. D., Brown, D. R., McGuire, L. C., Taylor, C. A., Fulton, J. E., & Carlson, S. A. (2020). Cross-sectional association between physical activity level and subjective cognitive decline among US adults aged ≥45 years, 2015. Preventive Medicine, 141, 106279.
Physical activity and cancer. (2022, April 27). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Santos De Sousa Fernandes, M., & Figueira Ordônio, T. (2020). Effects of Physical Exercise on Neuroplasticity and Brain Function: A Systematic Review in Human and Animal Studies. Neural Plast.