Best Exercise for Mood & Brain Health? (Hint: It’s Not Yoga)

It appears that yoga fanaticism has taken over more than just the stretch pants and exercise mat industry. Now it’s laying claim to happiness by insisting that it improves the mood of participants. Maybe someone needs to tell yoga fans that all exercise improves mood, and some actually do this better than yoga.

A recent article appearing on reported that the average yoga enthusiast will shell out $28,800 on yoga classes in a lifetime. That’s in addition to the $33,840 they’ll spend on “yoga essentials” like apparel, mats and headbands.

“But these extravagant costs are worth it for many,” they report. “Eighty-seven percent of people who have tried yoga are in a better mood when they leave the studio — which is why they keep coming back for more.”

If only someone would tell them that if they really want to feel good – and improve their brain health besides – the best overall exercise is aerobic, not isometric resistance exercises like yoga.

In this article appearing on, Dr. Brady Salcido cites a hallmark Harvard study which found that aerobic exercise had the most profound effect on neurogenesis and the production of BDNF – Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor – a protein that has a protective and reparative element to memory neurons. This protein is also why people feel so much better after exercising.

The same study found that aerobic exercise such as running, rowing, walking, and cycling, which had lower and more moderate levels of intensity, produced higher levels of BDNF in rats.

Resistance training, on the other hand, did not show considerable elevation of BDNF.

As this article puts it, exercise is nature’s painkiller.

“When you put your body to the test, your brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary gland produces neurochemicals called endorphins. These are considered nature’s painkillers. They bring about feelings of euphoria and well-being as well as highlight the ‘reward’ circuit of your brain.”

Cardio exercise gets the heart rate up and increases blood circulation throughout your body, which means you burn calories, reduce fat, improve your heart health, and rev your metabolism.

So the next time someone suggests you take up yoga because it’ll make you happy, share a few of these facts with them and invite them to try something that will make them even happier and improve their brain health as well – a nice brisk walk.

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