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2 Ways Exercise Can Help Improve Focus

2 Ways Exercise Can Help Improve Focus

by Paige Gibbens, PT, DPTLeave a Comment

It’s no secret that exercise is an important part of life. Exercise is most commonly known to improve physical health, but it can also positively affect mental health. Did you know exercise can also improve focus, learning, memory, and reasoning1? Let’s look at a few ways this is accomplished.

1. Decreases Anxiety

Anxiety is defined as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.4” Anxiety can cause difficulty with attention to tasks, concentration, thinking, and reasoning. Exercise is a known non-medication anti-anxiety treatment. When you exercise, there are a variety of neurotransmitters (think natural body chemicals) that release into the brain, including dopamine. Dopamine is a substance that has a direct role in motivation and pleasure activities3. These substances that get released have been shown to have an effect on anxiety and depression. This benefit has been observed following just 10 short minutes of exercise1! This means a simple 10-minute walk outside can provide these benefits.

2. Promotes Growth of New Brain Cells and Reduces Brain Aging

Studies have identified that 30 minutes of exercise can cause an immediate effect on focus and concentration. This effect can last up to two hours following exercise. In this study, reaction times were also investigated and were shown to improve more than after a cup of coffee1.

Exercise has a direct correlation with improving brain health. When exercise is performed, it increases the amount of available brain chemicals that encourage new connections within the brain2. These chemicals also have been shown to improve quality of sleep and reduce stress, which both have a correlation with focus1.

While this indicates an obvious importance with initiating an exercise routine, this should be done with clearance from your physician and done correctly. Seeking the advice of an exercise and healthcare professional like a physical therapist can be a helpful way to determine ways exercise can fit into your day-to-day routine. A personal trainer or group fitness coach can help with appropriate exercise, as well as motivation. If you find yourself noticing aches or pains with exercise, contact your local Athletico physical therapist. While muscle soreness can be normal when starting a new exercise program, pain is not. Our Athletico team will assess your pain and provide recommendations to help you feel your best.

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*Per federal guidelines, beneficiaries of plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VHA and other federally funded plans are not eligible for free assessments.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Suzuki, W. (2021, October 22). A neuroscientist shares the 4 brain-changing benefits of exercise-and how much she does every week. CNBC.
2. Tips to improve concentration. Harvard Health. (2020, October 1).
3. Sheppard, S. (2023, May 19). How dopamine influences your mental health. Verywell Mind.
4. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Anxiety. American Psychological Association.

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About the Author:
Paige Gibbens is a physical therapist specializing in lower extremity treatments and is certified in dry needling and Graston. She is also the Missouri & Southern Illinois regional coordinator for Athletico's Endurance Program.

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