It’s no surprise that physical activity can have a positive impact on our physical well-being. Research has shown that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to the deterioration of the cardiovascular system, which can cause heart disease and failure. In more recent years, physicians have been encouraging their patients to use physical activity to improve cardiovascular health, prevent hypertension, diabetes and osteoporosis.
However, physical benefits are only one aspect of the benefits that can come along with engaging in physical activity.
Research has been on the rise diving into the positive connection between physical activity and mood and in turn, mental health.
In a broad sense, exercise can help boost our mood because of the release of chemicals that accompany exercise.
Here’s the breakdown:
- When we work out, we release Endorphins, these endorphins are considered “feel good” chemicals and can improve overall mood.
- When we increase our heart rate, we stimulate the release of norepinephrine which helps our brain deal with stressful situations better.
- Physical activity also helps to improve blood and nutrient flow to the brain, which can help improve concentration, sleep and ultimately boost the mood.
Exercise in connection with depression & anxiety
Studies have shown that regular exercise can help reduce the likelihood of experiencing depression or anxiety and for those who have been clinically diagnosed with depression or anxiety it can help keep those conditions at bay.
Exercise can help prevent or reduce depression due to the positive effect exercise has on the brain. Exercise can help with neural growth, improve nutrient uptake in the brain, reduce inflammation in the brain and create new patterns of calm and well-being. Remember norepinephrine from earlier? Well the production of monoamines (norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin) tends to be hindered in those with depressive disorders. Increasing the release of those monoamines through exercise can help with that. A study in 2007 showed that regular exercise had comparable results to antidepressants when treating depression without the side-effects that come along with taking antidepressants.
Stress & Anxiety
Remember the endorphins (feel good chemicals) we talked about earlier? They will play a major role in helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Endorphins released through regular, moderate exercise can help create a calming effect. Exercise can help improve how we respond to future stressor. For those who are anxiety-sensitive, this can help with responding to being put into anxiety-triggering situations.
Dementia & Alzheimer’s
Studies have shown that regular exercise in middle-aged adults can reduce the likelihood of developing dementia and/or Alzheimer’s.
How much and what kind of Physical Activity
Any type of physical activity will be helpful for improving your mood. Do you currently lead a sedentary lifestyle? That’s okay, just start with some sort of physical activity that gets your heart pumping. You can start with a 10-15 minute walk around your neighborhood and increase from there. For optimal benefits, 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical active 5 times a week is recommended.
This physical activity can include walking, aerobic exercise, resistance training or low-impact exercise such as yoga and Pilates. Choose a physical activity that you truly enjoy doing. This will increase the. Likelihood of making this physical activity a part of your overall lifestyle.