Your Brain On Exercise: How Working Out Makes You Smarter

Athletes and people who exercise not only have better bods -- they have better brains too, a host of studies have now firmly established.

A review of studies published earlier this month, in fact, found that a balanced diet and regular exercise can protect the brain and ward off mental disorders.

Other research has focused just on the effects of exercise. The bottom line: Exercisers learn faster, remember more, think clearer and bounce back more easily from brain injuries such as a stroke. They are also less prone to depression and age-related cognitive decline.

But why should a mindless half-hour on a treadmill affect your brain?

Exercise, like hunger, is a stress on your body. "And sometimes," said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla of UCLA, "stress can be good."