According to Gregory Scott Brown, MD, FAIHM, founder and director of the Center for Green Psychiatry, physical activity actually grows the brain in size, just like it does your muscles. It also increases the brain’s complexity. “Aerobic exercise, specifically, has been found to lead to an increase in blood flow in brain regions like the hippocampus, an area involved in learning, memory, and controlling stress,” he says. “Some theories suggest that exercise increases a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor which supports brain health, improves cognitive skills, and helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.”


So, physical exercise not only upgrades your brain to make you “smarter” but also enables better moods. “We know that exercise decreases our risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but it also decreases our risk for developing depression and it may help reduce symptoms of burnout, stress and anxiety,” says Dr. Brown. He tells me that really any type of exercise—cardio, yoga, or strength-training—helps improve mental wellness, so it’s dealer’s choice. “When it comes to the mind, what’s important is that we’re moving our body, not the specific type of exercise we are doing,” he says. “A large study followed over 30,000 adults for 11 years and found that regular exercise, regardless of intensity, was a protective factor against depression, so there’s no need to feel like we have to overdo it.”