It is a well-known fact that exercise can have great benefits for mental health. Whether its jogging, walking, basketball, golf… it doesn’t really matter. When you exercise, you improve your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. As a result, you cannot help but have better and more stable moods.
How does exercise help improve your moods?
One word: endorphins. These are your body’s natural opiates. Not only do they act as painkillers, but they also are your built in “feel good” drug. Endorphines promote a sense of well-being and happiness. And intense exercise releases them.
Additionally, the physical act of exercising – e.g. repetitive and strenuous motion – releases other neurochemicals such as serotonin, which play key roles in moderating moods. This physical activity also counters low energy, and “do nothingness” often associated with depressed, sad, or bad moods. Action generates motivation.
Bottom line, exercise is one way to improve and sustain “good” and stable moods. This is not to say that exercise alone is a treatment for clinical depression. However, exercise is a great way to improve moods of normally functioning (read: not clinically depressed) individuals, and is also commonly part of the therapy plan for those who suffer from mood disorders such as depression.
What kind of exercise is best?
The simple answer is the best exercise is the exercise you will actually perform regularly. Any kind of exercise will improve mood, energy, and general well-being… but only if you actually do it regularly; e.g. 3+ times per week.
It is often tough beginning a new exercise program. After all, if you are like me, it hurts to try and regain the physical conditioning of the glory years. So reframe your approach.
Here are some suggestions:
• Find an exercise you enjoy. If you enjoy it, you will likely keep doing it. Remember, good intentions alone don’t give you the results. You must actually find a program you can stick to, and perform at least 3-4 times per week, for 30-45 minutes each.
• Set reasonable goals. Again, reframe your approach. Be patient with yourself. Trying to regain the glory days in a week or a month will likely result in a lot of pain, may get you hurt, and almost always ends with giving up on the program.
• Change it up. Its ok to change times and activities to avoid boredom… unless you are the kind of person that really needs a regimented routine, of course.
• Find a partner, or trainer. Exercise can and should be a social activity.
• Finally, talk to a doctor to ensure your plan is one that is safe for you. You can also hire a trainer to assist in developing a safe plan. Injury is a exercise program ender.