I use anecdotal information to get inspired, that’s the first step. To get into action I turn to studies, so that I get convinced that the success will apply to my own life.
Exercise and Mood I want to pass on some information from studies on the effect of exercise and our mood.
Here is what I want to look at:
1 Does exercise improve our mood
2 How does it work (using understandable English)
3 Who does this apply to
4 Are there specific exercises that target mood
5 How long and how often do we need to exercise to get this particular benefit
1 Does exercise improve our mood?
A review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression, and it may help in treating severe depression (1). A Mayo Clinic paper calls exercise meditation in motion. It goes on to say that it can increase self-confidence, relax us, lower symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety and can improve our sleep (5). Another review says that most studies suggest that exercise and physical activity are associated with a better quality of life (6).
2 How does it work?
Exercise enhances the action of endorphins, chemicals that circulate through the body, to boost natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain and improve mood (1). Endorphins are called our brains’ feel-good neurotransmitters(5). Another theory is that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve mood(1).
Another viewpoint: exercise helps improve our mood by boosting our minds. One study finds that exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood by improving self-esteem and cognitive function(4).
3 Who does this apply to?
The findings apply to all of us.
The evidence for the mood-boosting quality of exercise comes from a broad cross section of people, from experimental as well as population-based correlation studies(2). Both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies as well as randomized clinical studies have been reviewed, including diverse ethnic populations, men and women and also several age groups, including adolescents, middle-aged and older adults(6).
4 Are there specific exercises that target mood?
Studies vary on this point. Some say that any form of exercise can help depression(3), others that any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever(5). Others state that the following exercises have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression: aerobic, jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening and dancing(4).
5 How long and how often do we need to exercise to get this benefit?
One study suggests that 20 to 30 minutes, 3 times a week eases depression, and 4 or 5 times a week has even better results(3). Another study says that within five minutes after moderate exercise we usually get a mood-enhancement effect(2).
The effects of physical activity extend beyond the short-term. Research shows that exercise can also help alleviate long-term depression(2).
Note: The studies mentioned above only relate to our mood and exercise. Next week I will look at exercise and cognitive enhancement. Who doesn’t want a beautiful brain?