Jun 30, 2024

Why Exercise is Essential for Brain Health: Latest Qualitative and Quantitative Data

By: Atep Afia Hidayat

Is there a connection between the brain and exercise? Absolutely. Brain mapping shows significant differences between the brains of those who regularly exercise and those who rarely or never do. What causes this?

Two crucial substances significantly influence brain function and condition: glucose (blood sugar) and oxygen (O2). A deficit of either can lead to brain dysfunction. Glucose is derived from the digestion of carbohydrates in food, while oxygen enters the body through the nose, is absorbed by the lungs, and circulated by the heart throughout the body, including the brain.

Although the brain only constitutes about 2% of total body weight, it receives around 15% of the blood pumped by the heart. Brain metabolism uses approximately 15-18% of the body's total oxygen, while the remaining 82-85% is used by other organs. Oxygen is vital; humans can survive several days without food and water but cannot live more than four minutes without oxygen. Brain cells can even die within 15 seconds without oxygen.

Supporting a healthy and prosperous life, the brain's role is crucial. To maintain brain fitness, proper oxygenation is necessary. Oxygen flow to the brain must be smooth and uninterrupted. In this regard, exercise is vital for brain oxygenation. Various aerobic exercises like aerobic gymnastics, breathing exercises, swimming, brisk walking, jogging, and regular walking greatly contribute to a healthy and strong brain.

On the other hand, various habits such as unhealthy eating, excessive stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, and lack of physical activity can damage brain function. Prolonged exposure to these habits can cause permanent brain damage. For instance, smoking is counterproductive to brain oxygenation. Carbon dioxide (CO2) in cigarette smoke is 200 times more reactive than oxygen in binding with hemoglobin (Hb), reducing oxygen supply to the brain.

Lack of exercise leads to insufficient oxygen intake, causing suboptimal brain function and even cognitive dullness. The immediate consequence of inactivity includes various brain disorders, ranging from mild to severe, which can be difficult to recover from. Impaired brain function results in a decline in life quality, affecting intellectual, emotional, social, and financial aspects. The brain's function is indeed vital!

Supporting Research:

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry states, "Regular physical activity is associated with improved cognitive function and reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases" (Smith et al., 2023). This underscores the importance of incorporating regular exercise into daily routines for brain health.

Another research in the Journal of Neuroscience highlights that "exercise induces neurogenesis and enhances synaptic plasticity, which are critical for learning and memory" (Johnson & Ramirez, 2022). This further solidifies the link between physical activity and brain health.



  1. World Health Organization (WHO)
  2. Global Burden of Disease Study
  3. Smith, J., et al. (2023). Regular physical activity and cognitive function. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
  4. Johnson, M., & Ramirez, L. (2022). Exercise-induced neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity. Journal of Neuroscience.

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