Everyone knows that exercise will help you lose weight, get stronger and live longer. These are basically the reasons anyone ever starts working out, of course. But thinking about the benefits of exercise solely in these terms actually does it a disservice, as recent research has shown that the benefits of exercise extend well beyond just looking better naked.

In fact, some of the most compelling benefits of regular exercise relate to the effect on the brain.

Benefit #1: Increased happiness

Yup, working out regularly makes you happier, and it’s not just because you look better naked. The endorphin boost from working out is so powerful that a 2013 study found no difference between the effectiveness of antidepressants and exercise. Think about that—the best medical science has to offer can’t beat getting sweaty on the regular. Well played, exercise.

Benefit #2: Reduced Stress

Having a hectic time at work? Getting your sweat on will help. Research has shown that exercise lowers levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine, so the next time that annoying co-worker does that super-annoying thing you hate, ditch the stress ball and find 30 minutes for a workout.

Benefit #3: Less anxiety

Those warm and fuzzy chemicals that flood your body after exercise? They don’t just feel nice—they’ve been shown to help soothe people with anxiety disorders. What’s more, according to a 2018 study, this effect is more pronounced with regular moderate-to-hard exercise than with light exercise. Another win for HIIT!

Benefit #4: Boosted brainpower

Want to be smarter? Break out the burpees! While working out won’t turn you into Einstein, research has shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and even improve overall brain performance. Indeed, a 2019 study suggests that a tough workout increases levels of a protein called BDNF, which aids in decision making, higher thinking, and learning. Which means that if you work out enough, one day you might be able to understand what the heck BDNF is.

Benefit #5: Increased creativity

While we can only speculate on Picasso’s workout regime, the results of a 2019 study suggest that those who exercise more produce a greater number of original ideas and exhibit more spontaneous modes of thinking. So if you’re ever suffering from the tyranny of the blank page, a quick workout might be just the ticket.

Benefit #6: Sharper memory

If you’re always forgetting your keys, working up a sweat might be the answer—exercise increases production of cells in the hippocampus that are responsible for memory and learning. Even light exercise leads people to perform better on memory tests. All you have to do now is remember to start exercising…


Want to make your brain happy? Our 30-minute HIIT sessions are the most time efficient way to do it. Download the Ritual FIT app or sign up for a trial at Ritual Gym to see for yourself the difference 30 minutes can make.

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