We all have bad days, feel stressed sometimes, get anxious worrying about the future sometimes, or just feel off. These sorts of feelings are normal, they usually go away once a stressful situation is over, or after a good sleep (or filling an empty stomach).
If negative feelings are more persistent, seem to be getting worse, are interfering with your ability to function in everyday life, or seem to be present without any real reason, you may need to start looking for solutions to help you improve how you are feeling. The benefits of physical activity on mood, depression, anxiety, and stress has been well documented, and it’s quicker than you think…
How does it work?
Whereas medications like antidepressants can take weeks, if not months to take full effect, exercise can have significant improvements to mood almost straight away, with just 25 minutes of mild to moderate exercise being enough to trigger those feel good brain chemical being released.
A natural cocktail of endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine help create more elevated mood after an exercise bout, plus that rush of happiness sometimes referred to as a “runners high” that can come during exercise.
If you feel stressed a lot, three lots of twenty minutes of exercise (like walking) can make a big difference to your ability to handle that stress and not get weighed down by negative thoughts and become overwhelmed- essentially you can deal with stress better.
Clinical depression is another area to look at- feeling depressed decreases the likelihood of a person wanting to exercise, due to lower energy levels and motivation. What has actually been found though, is that if they are able to just get started with exercising regularly (this is the hard part), that just thirty minutes of intense exercise a day, combining aerobic and resistance exercises, has similar effects on mood as taking medication.
If anxiety is more a problem you struggle with, going for five minutes of cardio starts to have an effect on anxiety, so if you are feeling anxious, a brisk walk might be just what you need to clear your head.
Of course there are many factors that interact to affect mood- life situations such as the loss of a job, relationship breakdown, or other stresses play a part, as well as brain chemicals, and other psychological processes. So while exercise may not be a complete solution, it can be helpful in elevating mood as part of a total plan that addresses all the contributing factors.
How can I get started?
Start small, go for a 5 minute walk where you are right now. Work up to ten mins. Fifteen. Throw in a few extra weight exercises. Borrow an exercise DVD to try at home. Try a session with a PT who can show you how to correctly perform exercises so you can do them on your own, or have someone train you on an ongoing basis if that works for you.
As an alternative, if you are really ready to make a change to how you feel and your habit, come to one of our retreats and kickstart your fitness and healthy mindset. Check out the program here>>