From neurons to hormones: Why your body needs a workout.
Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.
IMPROVES MOOD. It’s a well-kept secret that people who exercise regularly also have lower risk of depression. Our pill-popping culture tends to emphasize medical interventions for psychological disorders over behavioural treatments. Exercise is one of these behavioural treatments. Aerobic exercise improves your mood by causing your body’s endorphins to kick in. These are the natural “feel good” neurotransmitters that start to exert their effects after about 20 minutes of training. These regular exercise-related boosts eventually improve your overall mental health over the long term.
LOWERS ANXIETY. Related to exercise’s effects on mood are its effects on your levels of anxiety. As your levels of endorphins increase, your feelings of worry also start to diminish. When you exercise, you also refocus your attention from your daily problems to the workout itself. You can gain a fresh perspective on even the most preoccupying concerns in your life by taking an exercise break. When you return to these daily problems, you approach them with renewed energy and even some new ways to figure out solutions.
FEELS LIKE FUN. If you find the kind of exercise that fits your personality and motivational needs, you can actually have a good time while your body does the work. Some people need to exercise in a group class because they enjoy the social opportunities it provides. Others prefer to have time to themselves away from the stress of work and family. Whatever your exercise style, once you get into a routine, you’ll find that the activity itself becomes rewarding. Perhaps it’s those endorphins or the benefits of social support from your gym-mates. Whatever the cause, long-term exercisers love this natural “high” and wouldn’t give it up for anything. Once you get to that point, exercise enriches the quality of life.