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I am well aware of the phenomenon of neurogenesis induced by exercise, as well as the dopamine release that results from exercise. I am really interested in neuropsychology and the effects of exercise on personality. What are some other biological processes that are stimulated by exercise, does it activate our parasympathetic nervous system? Is there any cool research out there for me to read? I am grateful for any input. Any information about exercise and its effects on human biology is appreciated.

UPDATE
While this answer was appreciated, i'm interested in other biological processes... What happens to stress and anxiety? Do our adrenal glands stop secreting as much corticosteroids? What effect does exercise have on circadian rhythms? With exercise, can you circumvent the problem of not getting enough light in the winter? What effect does exercise have on memory? It should probably help, since it would lead to decreased damage to the hippocampus. How does exercise effect sleep, learning, memory, metabolic processes??? I'm searching for the comprehensive list of different primary and secondary effects of exercise from a biological standpoint. I'm really interested in what the short term and long term effects of exercise are on the brain.

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There's one thing I can add, I'm pretty sure any dopamine release would be catalysed by a endorphin release seeing how beta endorphin is well known to be released during exercise. –  Brenton Horne Jan 11 '13 at 22:19

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Although current research has little to say about the effects of exercise on personality, there has been recent correlations demonstrated between personality and the "drive" to exercise--specifically, aggression as a personality trait has been linked to higher metabolic rate. See http://phys.org/news206006380.html for more information about this.

The causation in exercise-induced neurogenesis is not well understood. A correlation that has been found (in mice) is the presence of a hormone called beta-endorphin, which is attributed to positive affect (a boost in mood). Exercising mice that demonstrated the presence of beta-endorphin in their hippocampal region did experience exercise-induced neurogenesis, while those that naturally lacked beta-endorphin did not experience neurogenesis.

The basic worth of circulation should not be overlooked, either. Anything that gets your blood pumping more efficiently means that the more distal parts of the body will appreciate an influx of nutrients. A smoker with poor circulation (as a result of lowered oxygen in the blood -- carbon monoxide competes for hemoglobin-binding) will have cold hands and brittle fingernails, and this is just a simple example of this phenomenon. The value of increased circulation to the brain shouldn't be overlooked -- the blood is our main transportation system, and the brain gets nothing that is not delivered via circulation. It's akin to watering a plant -- sure, it may grow it you give it 30 minutes of sunlight and 1/4 cup of water a day, but it will certainly grow to its full potential if it is fed as much as it needs.

Exercise is important, but it's easier to think about the questions you pose if you consider exercise more as a physiological stressor on the body. Muscle tissues are torn and damaged by exercise, but the body recognizes that it must need these resources (because of some present danger in the environment that caused you to run/strain yourself) so you begin to see the typical skeletal muscle hypertrophy. The heart is also made stronger through this strain, which is why regular exercisers have a lower resting heart rate -- it takes their heart less effort to pump the same amount of blood.

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Exercise stimulates various hormones which have impact on brain as well as other parts of the body. In psychological perspective, endorphins and serotonin released during exercise, are responsible to feel good feeling or act as antidepressants. Endorphins are produced by pituitary gland in the brain. Serotonin is also produced in brain to some extent during exercise. An increased level of serotonin could lead to nausea and vomiting. The other hormone released significantly is dopamine which is responsible for increasing blood pressure but it also helps in focus, attention and increase memory.

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Note that the pituitary gland is not part of the brain. Also, I would refrain to say "release of <insert your favourite neurotransmitter here> does XYZ". Dopamine has many different effects depending on what part of the brain releases it and where. –  nico Jan 12 '13 at 12:49

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