Does Exercise Increase Mental Alertness?

Regular exercise provides a number of benefits to your physical and mental health. While everyone knows that exercise keeps you physically fit, you might not have realized that exercise can also help increase feelings of mental alertness. According to a 2006 report in the "Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry," exercise improves mental alertness by reducing feelings of tiredness and increasing stamina and energy levels.

Cognitive Decline

Mild cognitive decline is somewhat common in aging adults. According to a 2010 article in Science Daily, mild cognitive decline is an intermediary state between the normal memory and learning problems that occur with aging and dementia. Symptoms include a lack of mental alertness, forgetfulness and mild memory loss. A study published in the January 2010 issue of the journal, "Archives of Neurology," found high-intensity aerobic exercise improved cognitive functioning in adults with mild cognitive impairment when compared with a control group. Exercise can help maintain clear thinking, learning and judgment skills as you age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mental Health Disorders

Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure After Exercise

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Exercise may help improve mental alertness and decrease cognitive symptoms in those suffering from certain mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Cognitive symptoms of depression and anxiety often include decreased mental clarity, forgetfulness, apathy and tension. In their book, "Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology," sports psychologists Robert S. Weinberg and Daniel Gould report that exercise can benefit mood disorders by decreasing anger, increasing alertness and feelings of well-being and improving energy levels.


A lack of sleep and feelings of fatigue can cause you to feel forgetful, make more mistakes and result in decreased mental alertness. Exercise may provide short-term benefits for ameliorating decreased mental alertness caused by a lack of sleep and fatigue. A study published in 2000 in the journal, "Military Psychology," found that sleep-deprived aviators experienced improved mental alertness immediately following exercise, but the benefits decreased as time elapsed. During times of fatigue, exercise may promote mental clarity by improving blood flow to the brain and increasing your body's production of ADP, or adenosine diphosphate, your body's energy currency.

Reaction Time

Mental and Physical Exhaustion

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A lack of mental alertness can cause a decrease in your reaction time, resulting in increased falls and accidents and decreased performance abilities. By promoting increased mental alertness, exercise may also help improve your reaction time. A study published in 2005 in the journal, "Neuroscience Letters," found that study participants experienced an improvement in reaction time during periods of exercise as opposed to during periods of rest.