“How does exercise affect your mood?”, I asked my fellow classmates after a recent early morning workout in the pool. The answers came back immediately and enthusiastically: “It helps me focus in the morning and calms me down at night. It makes me happy. If I’m stressed when I start, I’m not when I’m done. It relaxes me. It increases my energy so I get more done in the day.My anxiety and worry are gone when I finish.”
These comments collaborate research studies examining the effect of exercise on mood. An article in Harvard University Healthbeat says “If exercise were available as a pill, experts say, everyone would be taking it. One reason is that exercise is very good at defusing stress.”
A February 2019 Harvard Healthwatch article entitled No drug approach to mild depression
, notes “There is strong evidence that any kind of regular exercise is one of the best antidepressants. ” Exercise has been shown to lower symptoms of anxiety, improve sleep quality, and boost energy.
Exercise enhances endorphins — your natural occurring chemicals that bring a sense of euphoria thus improving mood. “A meta-analysis published online Oct. 18, 2018, by Depression and Anxiety found that people with major depression who engaged in an average of 45 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three days a week for at least two months experienced a greater antidepressant effect compared with those who did minimal exercise.”
For folks with anxiety-related conditions, exercise can be a beneficial strategy to release built up tension and reduce feelings of fear and worry. Exercise can help alleviate common physical symptoms that are often exacerbated by nervousness and anxiety including reducing muscle tightness and built up tension. Increased endorphin levels enable you to fight off pain and stress. As a result, stress hormones are reduced, helping to improve one’s sense of well-being and decreasing the intensity of anxiety
You don’t have to sign up for a class to begin experiencing the benefit of exercise. Any kind of exercise and level of intensity is beneficial. Focus on what you enjoy, dancing in your house, working in your garden or taking a daily walk outside.
Perhaps you want to begin by taking a walk outside for a few minutes a day, then gradually increase your time to 20-30 minutes. Walking outside in nature enables you to pay attention to your senses. Focusing on the rhythm of your walking, your breathing has a calming effect. Pay attention to your senses. What are you smelling, hearing, seeing, feeling on your skin? This increases mindfulness, enabling you to reduce stress by staying in the moment.
You may need to check with your health care professional to determine what level and type of exercise is best for you. Find out what works for you, what you enjoy and get moving to improve your mood.