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How Exercise Boosts Your Brain

hand raising in classroom

If you're like a lot of teenagers, you may think that exercise means playing sports. So if you're not very good at sports, you might not be motivated to try any kind of hobby that gets you active.

But exercise is simply about moving your body.  That means things like walking, throwing a Frisbee, or vacuuming your room all count. It doesn't have to involve competition.

If you're not being active, you're cheating yourself out of all the perks exercise can bring you. Like did you know that teens who are more active may do better on tests?

Yep, exercise not only builds your fitness -- it also boosts your brain power, which can help you do better in school. Studies show that teens who do aerobic exercise -- like walking and swimming -- have bigger brains, especially one part, the basal ganglia, which helps you pay attention, even through another ho-hum chemistry class. One school found that 30 minutes of walking on a treadmill improved students' problem-solving skills by 10%. That could bump you up a letter grade!

Being active has other benefits too: It can help you sleep better, feel more energetic, and be less stressed.

Now are you motivated to give exercise a try? Here are a few simple steps you can take to start building your brain power through fitness.

Start With a Small Goal

So you can't run a mile right now. No sweat. You don't even have to make running your goal. Studies show that just 20 minutes of walking before a test improved students' scores -- whether or not they were fit when they started.

Start exercise slowly, and go with what you know. If you can walk for 10 minutes, begin by going for a 10-minute walk every day. If you can walk longer than that, great. Go for it!

Be truthful with yourself about what you can do. A short-term goal that's easy to measure will keep you motivated to do it. With each success, you'll build your confidence, too.

Exercise Before School if You Can

Hitting the gym or the treadmill before class can do wonders for your grades. A high school in Naperville, IL, scheduled first-period PE classes for everyone and saw math scores improve by 20% and reading scores go up, too.

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