These 10 Little Known & New Facts About Exercise Are Incredible



Endurance exercise helps to prevent Parkinson's disease.

Endurance exercise improves hippocampal nerve regeneration and loss of dopaminergic neurons caused by a drug (MPTP) that causes Parkinsonian effects.

Endurance exercise improves antioxidant ability and prevents oxidative damage done by the same drug.

The correlation between MPTP-induced Parkinson's and physiological Parkinsons is reliable enough for researchers to use MPTP for studies of the nervous system.

One single physical exercise session regulates object recognition learning.

Dopaminergic receptors might be involved in exercise’s effects on memory.

PKA signaling might be required for the exercise’s effects on memory.

Exercise generally decreases the reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse, but its efficacy is variable.

Exercise may prevent drug use initiation through interactions with dopamine in the reward pathway.

Exercise may prevent relapse through interactions with glutamate, dopamine, and chromatin.

Exercise may be a useful tool for treating drug addiction.

Does Exercise Change Dopamine?

Researchers found that exercising changed neither the amount of dopamine nor the number of neurons in the animals' brains. But in the ones that had exercised, the brain cells were using dopamine more efficiently.

Exercise awakens the brain's reward system by activating the brain's dopamine receptors. In fact, an 8-week exercise regimen can permanently increase the dopamine receptors in your brain, making you more responsive to natural sources of joy.

Researchers in Japan have identified a new and relatively easy way to ascertain if the link between higher aerobic fitness and more efficient executive functions is mediated by activity in the brain's dopamine system. This study (Kuwamizu et al., 2021) was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

For this study, a team of scientists from the University of Tsukuba led by first author Ryuta Kuwamizu and senior author Hideaki Soya used spontaneous eye blink rate (sEBR) measurements to investigate if higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness, increased sEBR, and more efficient neural activity in the prefrontal cortex are interconnected.

Accumulating evidence suggests that spontaneous eye blink rate is a non-invasive marker of central dopamine function; higher sEBR predicts more robust dopamine function (Jongkees & Colzato, 2016). Previous research has also shown that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) stimulate dopamine release in numerous brain regions.

Although multiple neural mechanisms (e.g., BDNF, neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity) and various neurotransmitters (e.g., endocannabinoids, serotonin) influence the brain-enhancing benefits of physical activity, it's well established that MVPA and HIIT workouts increase dopamine levels and that, when it comes to the neuromodulation of aerobic exercise, the dopaminergic system is of paramount importance (Heijnen et al., 2016).

For the recent University of Tsukuba study, Soya Lab's goal was to determine if sEBR is an effective marker for tracking exercise-induced changes in neural efficiency that previous studies link to the brain's dopamine system.

"The dopaminergic system is associated with both executive function and motivated behavior, including physical activity," Kuwamizu explains in a February 1 news release. "We used sEBR as a non-invasive measure of dopaminergic system function to test whether it could be the missing link between aerobic fitness and cognitive function."

"As expected, we found significant correlations between aerobic fitness, cognitive function, and sEBR," Soya noted. "When we examined these relationships further, we found that the connection between higher aerobic fitness and enhanced cognitive function was mediated in part by dopaminergic regulation."

"Although previous studies have indicated that aerobic fitness and cognitive function are correlated, this is the first to provide a neuromodulatory basis for this connection in humans," Kuwamizu added. "Our data indicate that dopamine has an essential role in linking aerobic fitness and cognition."

"These results indicate that the sEBR mediates the association between aerobic fitness and executive function through prefrontal neural efficiency, which clearly supports the hypothesis that brain dopaminergic function works to connect, at least in part, the missing link between aerobic fitness and executive function," the authors conclude.

There are multiple mechanisms that account for the brain-enhancing effects of exercise, including neuroinflammation, vascularization, antioxidation, energy adaptation, and regulations on neurotrophic factors and neurotransmitters. Dopamine (DA), noradrenaline (NE), and serotonin (5-HT) are the three major monoamine neurotransmitters that are known to be modulated by exercise.

Feel like going deep on the neurotransmitters and how exercise affects them? Fair warning, it’s science. Click here.

How much exercise do I need?

If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, there's no reason not to reap the physical and mental benefits of a regular exercise routine. But how much exercise is the right amount?

Official exercise recommendations have increased over the years. The Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PDF, 15MB) recommends 150 minutes or 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity a week, or 75 minutes of more vigorous activity.

If getting started with an exercise routine sounds overwhelming, keep in mind that starting anywhere is better than not starting at all. Not sure where to begin? Think outside of the box, and try not to worry too much. Research shows that all kinds of exercise can be an effective way to manage stress and stay mentally healthy. The important thing is that you find an activity you enjoy and stick with it.

Lucky for you we have included an infographic below to help get you started.

How To Measure And Track Your Dopamine - From Home

Tracking your dopamine from home would have been considered something far-fetched and sci-fi only a few years ago. However, at Lab Me you can track dopamine and many more neurotransmitters using a simple urine test.

It requires four collections through the day to catch the fluctuations that occur naturally. These fluctuations give tremendous insight into how your body is responding to and coping with stress, motivation, sleep, and more.

You can get started tracking your neurotransmitters from home here.


Jang, Yongchul, et al. "Endurance exercise mediates neuroprotection against MPTP-mediated Parkinson’s disease via enhanced neurogenesis, antioxidant capacity, and autophagy." Neuroscience 379 (2018): 292-301.

Yaribeygi, Habib, Alexandra E. Butler, and Amirhossein Sahebkar. "Aerobic exercise can modulate the underlying mechanisms involved in the development of diabetic complications." Journal of cellular physiology 234.8 (2019): 12508-12515.

Masilamoni GJ, Smith Y. Chronic MPTP administration regimen in monkeys: a model of dopaminergic and non-dopaminergic cell loss in Parkinson's disease. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2018;125(3):337-363. doi:10.1007/s00702-017-1774-z

Lynch, Wendy J., et al. "Exercise as a novel treatment for drug addiction: a neurobiological and stage-dependent hypothesis." Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 37.8 (2013): 1622-1644.

Ryuta Kuwamizu, Kazuya Suwabe, Chorphaka Damrongthai, Takemune Fukuie, Genta Ochi, Kazuki Hyodo, Taichi Hiraga, Atsuko Nagano-Saito, Hideaki Soya. "Spontaneous Eye Blink Rate Connects Missing Link between Aerobic Fitness and Cognition." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (Published online ahead of print: December 29, 2020) DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002590

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