We hear it all the time: move more. Exercise is the key to weight maintenance and the ever-enviable bikini body. But is there more to pounding the pavement and lifting weights? Research shows exercise can provide profound improvements in your brain.

 1. Exercise can prevent brain deterioration with aging: 
“Senior moments” seem natural, but scientific research says it doesn’t have to be that way.  A study from the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that seniors who exercised regularly over the course of two years had a 32% reduction in risk for dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease.  And studies show that exercise boosts brain function in younger people as well.  In this study from University of Illinois, researchers found increased physical activity improved reaction time among younger people.

 2. Exercise helps you learn more efficiently: 
In his nationally bestselling book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Dr. John Ratey explains that exercise improves the brain’s sensitivity to neural signals that cause brain growth and development. Additionally, physical exertion allows the mind to focus better on the task at hand. Interested? Check out Dr. Ratey’s Tedx Talk.

 3. Exercise is a proven treatment for depression: 
Since the early 80’s multiple studies have found correlations between increased physical activity and mediated symptoms of depression.  Exercise improves mood by increasing the release of neurotransmitter chemicals called “endorphins” that make you feel happier!

 4. You were born to exercise: 
Researchers have looked at the brains of various animals and traced their evolution.  The animals with increased capacity for endurance exercise also had the largest brains.  This is thought to be because exercise helps create more of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF.  This chemical is key for brain growth and may provide a link between our own exercise habits and our brain development.

So next time you lace up for a run, realize it’s not about squeezing into your skinny-jeans or earning your next latte.  The exercise you do will improve your intellect, keep you young, and make you happier. Win-win-win!