Need more motivation to exercise? How about feeling happier - research shows a strong relationship between exercise and mood. This feel-good effect often happens within only 5 minutes of moderate exercise. With an estimated 1 in 10 Americans taking antidepressants, this all-natural mood boosting remedy is worth trying out.
The Scientific Stuff
The "why" is still being ironed out by researchers, but the fact that exercise alleviates anxiety and depression, and makes people feel better, is clear.
Research has shown that regular exercise leads to decreased tension, improved sleep and self-esteem.
Moderate intensity exercise provides an immediate boost and that effect can last up to 12 hours.
Why it works:
The combo of chemicals naturally released during exercise has a soothing and mood-enhancing effect on the brain. Exercise increases serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for balancing mood, as well as endorphins, the chemical responsible for a runner’s high. Exercise also increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which protects and repairs neurons when stressed, making us feel calmer.
Behavioral factors that often accompany regular physical activity - improved sleep, distraction from stressors, and improved social connections - also improve mood.
The How To
Well, this is pretty obvious. Lace up your kicks, hop on your bike, roll out your mat, turn up your music. Whatever you choose to do, just get up and do it.
Focus on moderate exercise.
If you are pushing yourself too hard, the mood enhancing benefits are delayed. Any physical activity can help, it does not have to be an intense or formal program. Even a brisk walk around the block can help to view a problem in a different way or get you out of a funk.
At Juice Austin, we are all about making health easy in your busy lifestyle. So take your work call outside while walking. Play tag with your kids. Walk your dog. Of course, these activities shouldn’t be a replacement for regular exercise (ideally 30 minutes most days of the week), but it will likely be enough to power you through the rest of your day feeling good.
Find exercise that you love.
You are more likely to stick with it if it doesn't feel like a chore.
Get out when you're feeling low.
Exercise when you are feeling down, even if you don’t feel like it. These are the times you will feel the mood boost the most.
Focus on the immediate benefit.
Most of us are motivated to exercise for better physical health or for more vain reasons, like looking good in our jeans. There is nothing wrong with these motivators, yet they may take weeks or months to notice. Mood enhancement from exercise can be felt immediately. Immediate reward = behavior change!
Be mindful of how you feel while exercising.
Notice how you feel physically and emotionally during and after physical activity. Do you have a better outlook on the day? Do you have a new perspective on a problem you were worrying about? Do you have a sense of vitality and well-being you didn’t have when you started? Do you just generally feel better than when you started? This is important…spend a few moments really enjoying this feeling. Soak it up. Paying attention to how great you feel after exercise is what will bring you back the next day and the next (and is essential for the next tip). That is where change happens.
Tap into your motivation.
When feeling unmotivated, recall how you felt after your last workout and remind yourself that not only will you be doing something great for your physical health, but you will feel less stressed as an immediate bonus.
Stay tuned for more blog posts about how to enhance mood through simple changes in your day to day life! As always, the suggestions here are not to be used as medical advice. Contact your physician before making any changes to medications or before major changes to diet or lifestyle!