Why is exercise such a mood booster?

13th May 2019

A large study published in the Lancet last year showed that physical exercise was significantly and meaningfully associated with self-reported mental health. The World Health organisation recommends 300 mins of exercise and physical activity a week, 150 mins of the 300 being moderate to vigorous exercise. Sadly in the UK only 25% of the population meets these recommendations.

Regardless of age or fitness level, several studies show that making time for exercise provides not only physical health but also some serious mental benefits. Why is exercise such a mood booster?

  • Reduce stress One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress.
  • Boost happy chemicals - Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria reducing anxiety. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. For this reason, exercise is recommended alongside psychological and medical support.
  • Improve self-confidence - getting sweaty not just to look good but more importantly to feel better.  On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self esteem and improve positive self image. Regardless of weight, size, gender or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person's perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self worth. Even if it feels like hard work, think of the benefit rather than the discomfort!
  • Enjoy the great outdoors - Find an outdoor workout that fits your style, whether it's rock-climbing, hiking, renting a canoe or just taking a jog in the park. Plus, all that Vitamin D acquired from soaking up the sun (while wearing sunscreen, of course!) can lessen the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. Why sit in an air-conditioned gym if a little fresh air and sunshine (and exercise) can work wonders for self-confidence and happiness?
  • Prevent cognitive decline. Ageing is inevitable but we can slow down the decline. As we get older our memory, ability to learn and thinking skills can slowly decline. While exercise and a healthy diet can’t “cure” diseases such as Alzheimer's, aerobic exercise increases production of cells in the hippocampus which is responsible for memory and learning.
  • Get more done Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers.
  • Connect with others. Whether it's a kicking a ball around, a group class, or just a run with a friend, exercise rarely happens in a bubble. And that's good news for all of us. Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a buddy.  In fact, being part of a team is so powerful that it can actually raise athletes’ tolerance for pain.

Read our Local Recommendations blog, and meet some of our lovely local physical wellbeing partners who could get your body moving and that heart pumping!

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