The brain-changing benefits of exercise | Wendy Suzuki
The brain-changing benefits of exercise | Wendy Suzuki

What if I told you there was something
that you can do right now that would have an immediate,
positive benefit for your brain including your mood and your focus? And what if I told you that same thing
could actually last a long time and protect your brain
from different conditions like depression,
Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Would you do it? Yes! I am talking about the powerful effects
of physical activity. Simply moving your body, has immediate, long-lasting
and protective benefits for your brain. And that can last
for the rest of your life. So what I want to do today
is tell you a story about how I used my deep
understanding of neuroscience, as a professor of neuroscience, to essentially do an experiment on myself in which I discovered
the science underlying why exercise
is the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today. Now, as a neuroscientist,
I know that our brains, that is the thing in our head right now, that is the most complex structure
known to humankind. But it’s one thing
to talk about the brain, and it’s another to see it. So here is a real preserved human brain. And it’s going to illustrate two key areas
that we are going to talk about today. The first is the prefrontal cortex,
right behind your forehead, critical for things like decision-making,
focus, attention and your personality. The second key area is located
in the temporal lobe, shown right here. You have two temporal lobes in your brain,
the right and the left, and deep in the temporal lobe
is a key structure critical for your ability to form and retain new long-term
memories for facts and events. And that structure
is called the hippocampus. So I’ve always been fascinated
with the hippocampus. How could it be that an event
that lasts just a moment, say, your first kiss, or the moment your first child was born, can form a memory
that has changed your brain, that lasts an entire lifetime? That’s what I want to understand. I wanted to start and record
the activity of individual brain cells in the hippocampus as subjects were forming new memories. And essentially try and decode how
those brief bursts of electrical activity, which is how neurons
communicate with each other, how those brief bursts either allowed us
to form a new memory, or did not. But a few years ago,
I did something very unusual in science. As a full professor of neural science, I decided to completely switch
my research program. Because I encountered something
that was so amazing, with the potential to change so many lives that I had to study it. I discovered and I experienced
the brain-changing effects of exercise. And I did it in a completely
inadvertent way. I was actually at the height
of all the memory work that I was doing — data was pouring in, I was becoming known in my field
for all of this memory work. And it should have been going great.
It was, scientifically. But when I stuck my head
out of my lab door, I noticed something. I had no social life. I spent too much time
listening to those brain cells in a dark room, by myself. (Laughter) I didn’t move my body at all. I had gained 25 pounds. And actually, it took me
many years to realize it, I was actually miserable. And I shouldn’t be miserable. And I went on a river-rafting trip —
by myself, because I had no social life. And I came back — (Laughter) thinking, “Oh, my God,
I was the weakest person on that trip.” And I came back with a mission. I said, “I’m never going to feel
like the weakest person on a river-rafting trip again.” And that’s what made me go to the gym. And I focused my type-A personality on going to all the exercise
classes at the gym. I tried everything. I went to kickbox,
dance, yoga, step class, and at first it was really hard. But what I noticed is that after every
sweat-inducing workout that I tried, I had this great mood boost
and this great energy boost. And that’s what kept me
going back to the gym. Well, I started feeling stronger. I started feeling better,
I even lost that 25 pounds. And now, fast-forward a year and a half
into this regular exercise program and I noticed something that really
made me sit up and take notice. I was sitting at my desk,
writing a research grant, and a thought went through my mind that had never gone
through my mind before. And that thought was, “Gee, grant-writing is going well today.” And all the scientists — (Laughter) yeah, all the scientists
always laugh when I say that, because grant-writing never goes well. It is so hard; you’re always
pulling your hair out, trying to come up with that
million-dollar-winning idea. But I realized that
the grant-writing was going well, because I was able
to focus and maintain my attention for longer than I had before. And my long-term memory —
what I was studying in my own lab — seemed to be better in me. And that’s when I put it together. Maybe all that exercise
that I had included and added to my life was changing my brain. Maybe I did an experiment on myself
without even knowing it. So as a curious neuroscientist, I went to the literature to see
what I could find about what we knew about the effects
of exercise on the brain. And what I found was an exciting
and a growing literature that was essentially showing everything
that I noticed in myself. Better mood, better energy,
better memory, better attention. And the more I learned, the more I realized
how powerful exercise was. Which eventually
led me to the big decision to completely shift my research focus. And so now, after several years
of really focusing on this question, I’ve come to the following conclusion: that exercise is
the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today for the following three reasons. Number one: it has
immediate effects on your brain. A single workout that you do will immediately increase
levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin
and noradrenaline. That is going to increase your mood
right after that workout, exactly what I was feeling. My lab showed that a single workout can improve your ability
to shift and focus attention, and that focus improvement
will last for at least two hours. And finally, studies have shown that a single workout
will improve your reaction times which basically means that you are going to be faster
at catching that cup of Starbucks that falls off the counter, which is very, very important. (Laughter) But these immediate effects are transient,
they help you right after. What you have to do is do what I did, that is change your exercise regime,
increase your cardiorespiratory function, to get the long-lasting effects. And these effects are long-lasting because exercise actually
changes the brain’s anatomy, physiology and function. Let’s start with my favorite
brain area, the hippocampus. The hippocampus — or exercise actually
produces brand new brain cells, new brain cells in the hippocampus,
that actually increase its volume, as well as improve
your long-term memory, OK? And that including in you and me. Number two: the most common finding
in neuroscience studies, looking at effects of long-term exercise, is improved attention function
dependent on your prefrontal cortex. You not only get
better focus and attention, but the volume of the hippocampus
increases as well. And finally, you not only get
immediate effects of mood with exercise but those last for a long time. So you get long-lasting increases
in those good mood neurotransmitters. But really, the most transformative thing
that exercise will do is its protective effects on your brain. Here you can think
about the brain like a muscle. The more you’re working out, the bigger and stronger your hippocampus
and prefrontal cortex gets. Why is that important? Because the prefrontal cortex
and the hippocampus are the two areas that are most
susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases and normal cognitive decline in aging. So with increased exercise
over your lifetime, you’re not going to cure
dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but what you’re going to do
is you’re going to create the strongest, biggest hippocampus
and prefrontal cortex so it takes longer for these diseases
to actually have an effect. You can think of exercise, therefore, as a supercharged 401K for your brain, OK? And it’s even better, because it’s free. So this is the point in the talk
where everybody says, “That sounds so interesting, Wendy, but I really will only
want to know one thing. And that is, just tell me
the minimum amount of exercise I need to get all these changes.” (Laughter) And so I’m going to tell you
the answer to that question. First, good news: you don’t have to become
a triathlete to get these effects. The rule of thumb is you want to get
three to four times a week exercise minimum 30 minutes an exercise session, and you want to get aerobic exercise in. That is, get your heart rate up. And the good news is,
you don’t have to go to the gym to get a very expensive gym membership. Add an extra walk around the block
in your power walk. You see stairs — take stairs. And power-vacuuming can be as good
as the aerobics class that you were going to take at the gym. So I’ve gone from memory pioneer to exercise explorer. From going into the innermost
workings of the brain, to trying to understand how exercise
can improve our brain function, and my goal in my lab right now is to go beyond that rule of thumb
that I just gave you — three to four times a week, 30 minutes. I want to understand
the optimum exercise prescription for you, at your age,
at your fitness level, for your genetic background, to maximize the effects of exercise today and also to improve your brain
and protect your brain the best for the rest of your life. But it’s one thing to talk about exercise,
and it’s another to do it. So I’m going to invoke my power
as a certified exercise instructor, to ask you all to stand up. (Laughter) We’re going to do
just one minute of exercise. It’s call-and-response,
just do what I do, say what I say, and make sure you don’t punch
your neighbor, OK? Music! (Upbeat music) Five, six, seven, eight,
it’s right, left, right, left. And I say, I am strong now. Let’s hear you. Audience: I am strong now. Wendy Suzuki: Ladies,
I am Wonder Woman-strong. Let’s hear you! Audience: I am Wonder Woman-strong. WS: New move — uppercut, right and left. I am inspired now. You say it! Audience: I am inspired now. WS: Last move — pull it down,
right and left, right and left. I say, I am on fire now! You say it. Audience: I am on fire now. WS: And done! OK, good job! (Applause) Thank you. I want to leave you with one last thought. And that is, bringing
exercise in your life will not only give you
a happier, more protective life today, but it will protect your brain
from incurable diseases. And in this way it will change
the trajectory of your life for the better. Thank you very much. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The brain-changing benefits of exercise | Wendy Suzuki”

  1. Fitness IQ says:

    Actually. 30 minutes a day is minimum

  2. Nadir Osman says:

    When the doctor said you have dementia & depression, I couldn't accept the later. For almost 2-3 years I was home disconnected from family & all social life. Then my wife suggested we go to the gym and that changed my life. Now I exercise for 1 hour, 4 days a week and feel active at 67.

  3. ciaran delaney says:

    Socialing is.

  4. Colleen Fitz says:

    Thank you, so much, Ma'am! Hope I'm not too old to get started.

  5. Bryan Barrera says:

    Idk why I find Asian ppl boring lol

  6. Edward Biglang-awa says:

    She is really funny she really got me to stand up

  7. Abu Bakar Bin Khalid Khalid says:

    Hey just recall back how the stone age human being survives during the stone age.
    That's why God create legs to walk and run, and hand to do some work and balance our body during our run.

  8. Andrew Bright says:

    결론: "걍, 간단한 거라도 운동해"

  9. Abhilash Kk says:

    I am so happy with this speech

  10. Kimberley 123 says:

    Hi 🙂 – can anyone help me please?

    I'm a single parent and student science teacher. It's my second dream to learn all my lyrics in at least 20 languages, but I can't do it alone…
    Can anyone please help me with text translation of the lyrics? 🥰

    In exchange, I offer advertising of your choice in the acknowledgment book of the project. The project itself will either evidence for, or against the concept of synchronicity scientifically for the first time. 😊💖

    Due to the evidencing of synchronicity, I would ideally be able to speak to those who have helped me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. With regards to Facebook, please send a message regarding the project rather than a friend request. 😊

    The dream is here:
    My email is [email protected]

    Many thanks for your time! 💖

  11. Eric Folsom says:

    9 minutes in when Wendy says "everyone always asks me what is the minimum amount of exercise need to do to experience these changes", she read my mind!

  12. Timothy Woods says:

    First thing that came to mind was lsd

  13. Dalia Rana says:

    Well Going to walk in my block in neighborhood isn’t quite safe in all parts of America my opinion! I wish I can do that power walk tho, but then I gotta bump into all these murders and crack heads, just the truth… no cap 🤷🏽‍♀️

  14. Sandesh Khadka says:

    Type a brain fu

  15. Loriane says:

    I cant execise without music.

  16. eiran oconnor says:

    If this is true, why are so many gym goers so dumb 🤣🤣

  17. Ivorian Koua says:

    She get music skill too !
    She forgets to mention it !
    I'm Happy now 🙂

  18. Simple Complicated says:

    This is all bullshit.. I have a friend who was healthy and athletic till age 35 and he did a lot of exercise every day, still he got parkinson and even through parkinson he exercised but he kept declining…. his brain cells do not recover. Exercise is good that's one thing but function of brain cells is other….You need a lot of things to recover and stay healthy, just exercise is not enough. Genes also play a role …

  19. Jimmy FTW says:

    Well Im actually driving a Suzuki 🙂

  20. Narayan Kunwar says:

    wow nice awesome video

  21. Austin Nolen says:

    Thank you for this brilliant gem.
    Bless you.

  22. 잠들지않은밤 says:

    This is the best, best speech ever! makes me so inspired and go outside to do something required high level energy. thank you Wendy!

  23. Night Cat says:

    I'm trying to get motivated to go downstairs to my gym 💪😒

  24. John Mead says:

    Been way cooler if she rode a Suzuki onto the stage

  25. No Name says:

    So at last this is SUZUKI

  26. Michael Fretwell says:

    This just in: Exercise is good for you.

  27. EID DARWISH says:

  28. I am RIEM says:

    Let’s do it! 11:24

  29. Milk Beard says:

    Not only has working out become easier and more fun over time but ever since i have I’m more happy and relaxed and i really don’t have the urge to do bad things:)

  30. Asep Rohmandarjuara says:

    Jika otak ingin berkembang dan kapasitasnya makin besar dalam menyimpan memori pengetahuan baru dan lama adalah dengan membaca, mengaitkan, menyimpan, temukan dan tuliskan aja. Superbrain supersmart for we champion day.

  31. Mr. James Cagney says:

    She has a lisp that reminds me of Nina hartleys

  32. Champion Up® says:

    Great talk! A lot of valuable information to consider.

  33. Ben Zun says:

    God already taught this 1000+ years ago

  34. zack dasheeky37 says:

    just go for a 2o min walk a day is better than any medication!

  35. lady M says:

    Wow i just smiled the whole time….so inspiring…i saw 13 mins and i was like .. should i just watch later… glad i did not make that fatal mistake

  36. tiffsaver says:

    There's a saying among actors. They always say, "She GAVE a great performance," they never say, "She DID a great performance." In other words, to truly reach someone, you must GIVE of yourself… your love, your attention, your experience, your energy. That's why this young woman received a standing ovation, so rare in TED events. She gave so much that I actually want to start exercising again, and I'm 72-years old!!

  37. Ximoos says:

    She's crazy… Is she Latina?

  38. Kunal Saini says:

    Never Drink water immediately after meals( wait for 1 hour)
    Want to drink water before meal? Drink it 40 minutes early.

  39. B JH says:

    Slightly oversold. "something you can do right now which will have positive effect for the rest of your life."
    The Whole point of exercise is that the benefits come with regular practise. If one is unfit and tries to do exercise, it will certainly not have immediate or long-lasting benefits. More likely just induce nausea.

  40. Mary Joy De Eyoy says:

    Same thing happened to me and thanks to this awesome neuroscientist for explaining it because before I don't have answer to those who ask me why I became a little smarter than I used to be and just like what she said it was hard at the first time but if you keep on going you can make it because being focus is very hard to achieve specially distraction is everywhere. God Bless you everyone!

  41. Azz Azz says:

    Exercise doesn't work for me

  42. Knowhere Makerspace says:

    She knows how to get a standing ovation for her own LOL.

  43. vlad games says:

    I bet she came directly from gym.. Look at her energy level. I also feel thhis kinda energy after coming from gym 💪💪💪

  44. bingbing15 says:

    This talk on the importance of exercise on our brain and indeed mental health ia terrific! I will be recommending this to people to watch! 🙂 Thank you 🙂

  45. Lina Mape says:

    The best way to learn english

  46. zoha deeba Khan says:

    She definitely is doing exercise, because no way a typical Neuroscience professor would have that amount of energy!

  47. kushveer singh says:

    Anyone who work out knows the importance of high intensity training.. there is nothing new in this video

  48. Frozen music says:

    One of the greatest talk I ever heard👍👍👍

  49. عبدالكريم العتيبي says:

    I respected her intel she did the exercise 🙂

  50. Tobias Arcilla says:

    Her enthusiasm is so contagious.

  51. Devo Castler says:

    2:41 the electric signals are passed through the inside of neuronal cells and neurons among each other actually communicate chemically.

  52. Pravesh Alva says:

    I go to the gym every day, except when I'm sick

  53. Jiwoo Lee says:

    Bookmark 11:15

  54. Committed Relationships C.R.S.A Channel says:

    She is a hottie lol! Very charismatic. I like her lol. Great video. I gave it a like. 👍

  55. King Pin says:

    What a beautiful message.

  56. chris ., says:

    Feminism is a hate movement.

  57. Валерия Темная says:

    I love her!

  58. but2star says:

    Thats explained why, somewhere out there, is a country where most of its people love sitting on a couch, with a cheese burger on the right hand, a beer on the left watching football all day …. their iq index been dropping like dead ducks. This also explained why Trump had won the 45th Presidential election.

  59. Veri Brahmana says:

    Please subtitle indonesia

  60. Newblessedgrl76 says:

    Oh my gosh, i love her.

  61. Dom Mccaffry says:

    Precuntal prortex

  62. Alicia says:

    Isnt it strange how Japanese people are one of the most intelligent people in the world yet most girls don't even exercise.

  63. ayetrey says:


  64. Raj K says:

    So many lies to make the ted impressive.. she told kick box and yoga together .. to wire a research. 100% LIE.

  65. MyViiVa says:

    I wanna have that prof at my uni 🥰🥰🥰

  66. Vilma Bock says:


  67. youssef el atmani says:

  68. Michael Felder says:

  69. Israel Delgado says:

    She killed at the end !!!!

  70. Gina G says:

    good talk but the group exercise is too much

  71. Maya says:

    This is how a person talking about her passion sounds like. Shes in love with what shes doing and thats what makes her reliable

  72. Jonathan Santos says:

    Thank you for sharing
    as a collective effort.

  73. M. Lutfullah says:

    I'm running out of home right now for workout.😉

  74. Richard Stern says:

    What a beautiful Woman!!

  75. Hamza Mihfad says:


  76. Tessa Webb says:

    "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don't shoot their husbands." Elle Woods

  77. Joshua T says:


  78. ebrahim cajee says:

    A neuroscientist calling the brain a THING in your head, hmmmm, just wondering

  79. ebrahim cajee says:

    You must research exercising after intermittent fasting and human growth hormone

  80. Lemeki Delainukunawa says:

    Best video I've ever watched this year. Now more reason to exercise every day for me. Thank you Wendy.

  81. sevde n. says:

    Omg! Isn’t she amazing!!!

  82. Believein Pakistan says:

    The THE best TED shows so far

  83. Richie Lee says:

    What an inspiring talk from Dr. Suzuki! I am the exact evidence of what she says. I have a long history of depression, cognitive/focusing issues, sleep deprivation, high anxiety leading to short breath and headaches all in one for many years. However, since I started working out this year every 2-3 days (2hrs each) per week. My life has miraculously transformed. Not only can I focus on my work very well, I overcame my psychological problems (I used to see psychologists and psychiatrists over 2 years yet did not work out completely). In addition, seeing my body growing bigger along with happy mood, I realized that regular exercise indeed boosts my confidence level. Thank you Dr. Suzuki for your amazing speech!

  84. Jugganuat says:

    There's a lot more information that suggests exercise gives you more oxygen to the brain and increases red blood cells

  85. Rochelle Rosales says:

    Love this! Thank you !!

  86. Half Human says:

    In short : Just Exercise

  87. Waldemar Wagner says:

    So You didn't discover much… I would not stand up on this show.

  88. Aboo Swaleh Mosafeer says:

    I knew it because I always feel so "exorcised" after exercises.Exorcise yes that is the word I used.
    I will go one step further I feel so "undemonised".
    Tasks that repel me I swiftly do after a work out.
    My whole body feels in accord with my spirits. No wonder yoga,taichi dancing swimming jogging martial arts have been part of the cultures of many past civilisations.
    Western medicine is good but beware.
    Body and mind is designed to work synergically. Psycho-Somatism.Wholistism,Holistism.
    Proper diet
    Positive thinking
    Love thy neighbour like yourself you love
    Dispel toxic emotions
    Tolerance Empathy
    Dont do like Trump Mody
    Remember we all shall Die
    There is nothing that we possess
    We are all on transit.
    Brexit the Most Toxic Phenomenon after the second World War.
    We have oxygen-depleted Hippoccampus because we have already forgotten the horrible times of the Nazism and their abomi nable terrors of the Holocaust.
    Lies have become real.
    Bertha Thunberg proclaimed by Times as the Ultimate purveyor of Truth.
    All religions preach modesty economy
    Now Science is providing the evidence of the massacresof years of Greed and cutthroat capitalism with Profit as the God.
    Back to Basics.
    Memento Mori
    Tempos Fugit
    All the above are fundamental elements of Health WellBeing.

  89. John Stenberg says:

    Jeez I'm eating here thanks for the heads up

  90. Maha Alabduljalil says:

    Absolutely Amaaazing!

  91. navjot singh says:

    Very very nice

  92. PROMIX says:

    How can she explane that most of athletes and gym people are pretty stupid relative to other people?

  93. Kimberly Russell says:

    Yass!!!!! She did this, I love tedtalk

  94. mike thais says:

    Yes, frontal neo-cortal prioritise and options weighing decisions also critical to applying those functions to making plans.

  95. Trent Alexander says:

    I love it!!! I have been exercising since elementary currently 53 years old and I feel blessed!

  96. akult isgod says:

    learned nothing from this

  97. Fled From Nowhere says:

    I oddly like it a lot when scientists use the word "literature".

  98. Doug Maverick says:

    You forgot one, got to lower the stress in our lives, stress kills.
    For optimal health and wellness.
    1)a whole food plant based diet, no processed foods.
    2)daily moderate exercise, must increase your heart rate
    3)lower your daily stress
    4)eliminate all bad habits, quit drinking alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs, pharmaceutical drugs.
    Do these and you will be on your way to optimal health.

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