Scientists across the globe are unearthing a wealth of ways that exercise can improve your life. Read on to learn about four of the freshest findings.


Don’t go to the gym as often as you think you should? Fear not – being a member is still good for you! In a recent two-part Japanese study, researchers collected quantitative and qualitative data to reveal how exercising in a social setting gave people a positive identity and a feeling of belonging. And interestingly, how much they worked out didn't even come into it. The researchers found that it was social identification with a fitness club, rather than frequency of attendance, that was positively associated with members’ wellbeing. These new findings are backed up by past research showing the benefits of working out with others – and how social group exercise can be key to establishing good fitness habits, cutting stress, and enjoying exercise more.


Whether it’s picking up a new hobby, studying for a practical exam, or simply becoming more proficient at everyday tasks – taking action to learn a new skill can be hard work. But you can make it easier if you add exercise into the mix.

When we start learning and remembering new skills, specific parts of the brain are activated and the brain changes as new neuropathways are created. The changes happen as we are learning and practising the skill and also in the hours after as the memory is consolidated.

Now, new research shows exercise can amplify our ability to embed the changes – specifically, if we work out immediately before or after a new skill is learned.

Researchers identified that being physically active and elevating one's heart rate helps increase the brain's ability to remember. The study involved groups of young men doing a cycle workout before and/or after trying a computer game that challenged their motor dexterity. When the men cycled before or after their gaming session, there was a 10% lift in their ability to remember learned motor skills – and it was even better if they exercised both before and after.

Study author, PhD Lasse Jespersen, says: “If you exercise before learning a skill, you will improve and remember what you have learned better. The same applies if you exercise after learning. But our research shows that the greatest effect is achieved if you exercise both before and after.”

While these findings can be applied by anyone looking to pick up new skills, they’re particularly significant for individuals undergoing rehabilitation to recover mobility and lost motor skills.


Dopamine is a powerful neurotransmitter that is known to surge when we work out. A spike in dopamine production is linked to feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and motivation – and now, new research suggests it plays an integral role in improving reaction time too.

These findings came after a team of researchers used sophisticated scanning technology to track the metabolic and biochemical activity of cells in the body and measure the release of dopamine in the brain. They ran three tests that analyzed response times for cognitive tasks in association with various states of activity – while at rest, while cycling, and while undergoing electrical muscle stimulation.

It was the moderate-intensity cycling that sparked dopamine production and was linked to improved cognitive performance and faster reaction times. But what was most interesting was the test involving electrical muscle stimulation (measuring involuntary rather than voluntary muscle movement). The results indicated that exercise has to be from the central signals of the brain, not just the muscle itself, to spark the dopamine release and cognitive gains.


The mental health benefits of strength training have been long heralded. There’s plenty of evidence that lifting weights can diminish the effects of anxiety and we know that strength training leads to better posture, which is linked to better mood. Now, Irish researchers have provided more proof that resistance exercise can be a powerful alternative therapy for improved anxiety and depression.

This new study explores the psychobiological mechanisms associated with lifting weights, including increased insulin-like growth factor 1, cerebrovascular adaptations, and potential neural adaptations influenced by controlled breathing that are inherent to resistance exercise.

The scientists say it’s an exciting step forward in understanding what makes strength training so powerful. They believe it will set the platform to help optimize a resistance exercise prescription to provide maximum benefit for mental health. Watch this space…