Exercise increases the level of brain chemicals called growth factors, which help make new brain cells and establish new connections between brain cells to help us learn. Interestingly, complicated activities, like playing tennis or taking a dance class, provide the biggest brain boost. "You're challenging your brain even more when you have to think about coordination," explains Ratey. "Like muscles, you have to stress your brain cells to get them to grow." Complicated activities also improve our capacity to learn by enhancing our attention and concentration skills, according to German researchers who found that high school students scored better on high-attention tasks after doing 10 minutes of a complicated fitness routine compared to 10 minutes of regular activity. (Those who hadn't exercised at all scored the worst.)
It builds self-esteem and improves body image.