We all know exercise is the answer to physical fitness. But exercise is great for our brains as well. "The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong. Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect." Michael Otto, PHD and Professor of Psychology at Boston University. The great news is that it doesn’t require spending a huge chunk of time at the gym to reap the benefits of exercise. Although 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week is ideal, you’ll begin to experience the positive impacts with just a 5-minute walk, if that’s all you have to give. Starting small can actually prove beneficial because you’ll be more likely to accomplish your exercise goals if you don’t set them too high.
Want some motivation? Here are 4 ways that exercise affects your mood.
Exercise results in a ‘feel good’ state which can alleviate depression.
Exercise relieves depression symptoms in numerous ways. Active movement releases endorphins, otherwise known as the “feel-good chemicals” in your brain. Exercise also promotes changes and new activity patterns in the brain that enhance feelings of calm and well-being. Exercise is a meaningful activity that provides a sense of accomplishment. Getting out of your head and into your body helps break the cycle of negative thinking that feeds depression.
Exercise is a wonderful addition to anti-anxiety treatment
Those endorphins released by exercise can also help combat anxiety, but exercise may actually do more for anxiety than just that. People with heightened sensitivity to anxiety tend to react with fear to the physical sensations of a stimulated nervous system. For example, when you jump at the sound of a dog barking, it may set your heart to racing. If you don’t have anxiety, once you realize there’s no threat, your heart rate slows, and you move on. But if you do have anxiety, the rapid heart rate may set off fear and panic, even after you notice the dog is behind a fence. Research suggests that regular exercise can retrain the brain to experience the stimulated nervous system (sweating, rapid heart rate, etc.) as safe, thereby lessening the likelihood of panic in situations like the one mentioned above. Similarly, exercise and the resultant ‘feel good phenomenon’ helps reduce symptoms of PTSD and trauma.
Exercise and symptoms of ADHD
Much like some ADHD medications, exercise boosts levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, greatly affecting levels of focus and attention.
Physical activity increases focus, concentration, motivation, memory, and mood in all of us, but people with ADHD may experience the impact of these improvements more than most.
Exercise boosts self-esteem
How we feel about ourselves is affected by how we feel on physical, emotional, and mental levels. For example, exercise helps regulate sleep patterns. And when we get more sleep, we feel better physically. Exercise also combats stress, increases focus, and provides a sense of confidence and mastery, thus improving our mental state. Additionally, exercise increases our emotional resilience by providing us with an outlet for stress and helping us gain a sense of control over symptoms of depression and anxiety. The combination of all these positive impacts on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being greatly enhances our self-esteem.
Exercise is important for the health and well-being of everyone.
When used in combination with other therapies, exercise is effective in treating anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Alvarado Parkway Institute, with locations in El Cajon, San Diego, and La Mesa, CA, has helped thousands of people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders find what they need to cope, heal, and thrive. We can help you, too. If you have questions about our services or programs, please give us a call or fill in the contact form on our web page. Or call our 24-hour crisis line at 619-667-6125.
Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. We’re here for you.