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Hilary P., fifth-year student, University of New Brunswick – Fredericton

Sure can! There are numerous studies demonstrating that physical activity improves brain function in people of various ages and with different conditions. How does it work? Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and improves glucose and lipid metabolism, which your brain uses for fuel. It can even cause structural changes, such as an increase in grey matter volume in the frontal lobe and hippocampus—both of which play an important role in memory and learning.

Other benefits of physical activity that may help improve your academics

Exercise helps you sleep better, and being well rested helps you study more effectively and perform better on exams. Another benefit is that physical activity relieves anxiety, which is useful when it comes to concentration. People who exercise regularly also are generally healthier, and healthier lifestyle behaviours are positively associated with academic performance.

How much exercise do you need?

This appears to vary from study to study, but it seems that 20 minutes of strenuous exercise (i.e., raising your heart rate to 120 beats per minute) three times a week is the most common recommendation. Examples of strenuous exercise include running, swimming laps, or cycling. An alternative is 30 minutes of daily moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk, dancing, or gardening.

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