One Major Side Effect of Working Out Regularly, Says New Study

Kiersten Hickman
·3 min read
Female athlete with protective face mask doing plank exercise with hand weights in a gym.

At this point, it probably comes as no surprise that working out can significantly benefit your body. From boosting your metabolism to improving your cholesterol and lowering blood pressure, moving your body can help your body's overall health and longevity. But did you know that it can also affect your brain's memory? It's one major side effect of working out regularly, according to a new study published by the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.

Here's what the study had to say, and why boosting your brain's memory is one major side effect of working out on a regular basis. And if you're looking for even more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

Why working out is good for your brain's memory.

According to an article published by the New York Times, this study focused on older African-Americans and the effect working out on a regular basis had on their aging brains. After weeks of aerobic workouts, the study concluded that your "brain's memory center start interacting in complex and healthier new ways after regular exercises, sharpening memory function."

So how exactly does that work? The study states that exercise can affect the medial temporal lobe (MDL) network in someone's brain—which is a major site of neuroplasticity, which is a network that has the ability to change through "remapping," or as we call it, habits. The MDL is also the network that is immediately impacted by Alzheimer's disease, a disease that modifies one's memory.

In the study, researchers found that "exercise exerts a rehabilitative and protective effect on MTL function," meaning it can help protect your brain's memory and keep your mind sharp.

Exercise also can help reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, which are key elements for having a healthier brain. According to Harvard Health, "the benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells."

How often do you need to work out to keep your memory sharp?

Surprisingly, not a ton. While it's still good for your body's overall function to have a regular workout routine (even simply walking every day helps), the study shows that the study participants only participated in aerobic exercise twice a week. They did this for 20 weeks in the study before cognitive tests were taken.

Twice a week doesn't sound so bad, right? Especially if you're moving your body in a way that you like. "Aerobic exercise" is also known as a cardio workout, but that doesn't mean you have to go for a run if twice a week if you don't like it. Dance workouts, biking, swimming, hiking, or even walking at a faster, steady pace can all make a huge difference for your health.

So if you needed more convincing to start a workout routine, take this as a sign. Your brain literally has an epicenter that can shift when you set habits for yourself (neuroplasticity, baby!), and will reward you with a sharper memory in return.

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