During exercise, multiple sensory information such as visual outflow, proprioception, and vestibular information promote an increase in arousal state, which may convey positive effects on cognitive abilities such as memory. Nevertheless, which of the components of the ascending arousal system (AAS) are engaged during physical activity and which of them are critical for cognitive enhancement, induced by exercise is still unclear. Two experiments were conducted, to answer these questions: in the first one, the neuronal activity of different components of the AAS was evaluated by c-Fos immunoreactivity (Fos-ir) in running rats exposed to a lock or unlock running wheel. We found a specific Fos-ir increase in the tuberomammillary nucleus (TMN) associated with physical exercise. In the second experiment sedentary and exercised rats were challenged to conduct an object recognition memory task, and the activity of the AAS after learning was evaluated by c-Fos immunoreactivity. The exercised group showed a higher performance in the object recognition memory task which gets correlated with an increase on Fos-ir in the TMN, but not with the other components of the AAS, suggesting that the increase on TMN activity induced by exercise may be the foremost contributor of the AAS to memory enhancement observed in exercised animals.