Exercise, depression and the brain
Whether you're experiencing a simple case of Monday blues or more persistent symptoms of depression, exercise can help boost your mood.
Exercising regularly is important for good physical and mental health. Exercise can help stimulate parts of the brain that don't respond as well when you're feeling depressed. It also promotes the release of brain chemicals that make you feel good. It can also help distract you from your worries and improve your confidence.
Exercise and brain chemistry
Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of apathy and sadness. It is a complex condition, with several contributing factors. Changes in brain biochemistry are likely to play a role.
Simply put, most people who are depressed have some problem with their brain chemistry. Life experiences can make things worse, but usually the dominant problem is chemistry.
Exercise can help relieve symptoms of depression in several ways. Among other benefits, it helps stimulate the release of brain chemicals that make you feel good.
Endorphins and other neurotransmitters
The first thing you may think of when it comes to exercise and depression is what is commonly known as "runner's high." This describes the release of endorphins your brain experiences when you physically exert yourself. Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter or chemical messenger. They help relieve pain and stress.Endorphins are just one of the many neurotransmitters that are released when you exercise. Physical activity also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These brain chemicals play an important role in regulating your mood.
For example, regular exercise can positively affect serotonin levels in your brain. Increased levels of serotonin improve mood and overall sense of well-being. It can also help improve appetite and sleep cycles, which are often adversely affected by depression.
Regular exercise also helps balance your body's level of stress hormones, such as adrenaline. Adrenaline plays a crucial role in your fight or flight response, but too much of it can harm your health.
Other mental health benefits of exercise
Exercise can have other mental health benefits as well. For example, focusing on your body movements during exercise can help distract you from disturbing thoughts. Setting and meeting exercise-related goals can also increase your confidence and sense of control.
Exercising with other people can provide mood-enhancing social benefits. For example, consider walking in the park, taking a yoga class, or joining a recreational sports team with a friend or family member. Exercise classes can also be a good place to meet new people. You can enjoy the physical stimulation of a workout, while also gaining social stimulation.
Develop an exercise routineWhile any amount of exercise can help ease symptoms of depression, regular exercise is best. Some types of exercise can be more beneficial than others.
Aerobic workouts are more associated with positive results in treating depression. Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate, which improves circulation in your brain. This helps promote healthy brain function and balanced brain chemistry. Aerobic exercise also provides many physical health benefits.
The trusted source from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages most adults to get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. You can reach this goal by taking a brisk 30-minute walk around your neighborhood, five days a week.
You should also schedule at least two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities per week. Weight lifting, yoga, and Pilates are examples of activities that strengthen muscles.
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a balanced diet is also important for good mental health. For example, complex carbohydrates and high-protein foods can help improve your mood and focus. They also provide the energy and nutrients needed to fuel your workouts.
For a nutritious diet, eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins. Don't eat a lot of foods that are high in refined sugar, saturated fat, or salt. Drink alcohol only in moderation.
If you suspect you have depression, talk to your doctor. Doctors can recommend a variety of lifestyle changes, including changes to your exercise routine. They may also prescribe other treatments, such as medications, therapy, or a combination of both.