Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Exercise: The Natural Mood Booster

Exercise offers benefits not just for the body, but also the mind and spirit. Regular physical activity, whether a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood or a high-intensity gym routine, can improve mood, increase concentration, and even alleviate the symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.  Exercise works both directly and indirectly to help people feel better.

Exercise gets the body’s whole system moving. Aerobic workouts such as running on treadmills, or ellipticals, cycling and dance increase the heart rate and oxygenate the blood, with benefits for the cardiovascular and immune systems.   A moderately intense workout also boosts the brain’s production of endorphins, neurotransmitters responsible for elevating mood and inducing feelings of well-being, as in the well-known “runner’s high.” 

Because working out increases blood flow to the brain, it also helps to improve focus and concentration, which supports daily functioning and contributes to a greater sense of overall well being. And, because exercise improves flexibility and strength, it also increases energy levels and reduces the low-level aches and pains associated with inactivity.

Even moderate, low-stress exercise such as a gentle walk, or slower, more meditative practices such as yoga and tai chi help to boost the immune system and improve mood. These types of exercise regimens may be particularly helpful in reducing stress and anxiety, restoring a sense of calm that supports the body’s functioning and boosts immune responses.

Recent studies reported by the journal Psychology Today note that exercise has a place in the treatment plan for those diagnosed with clinical mood disorders, along with other strategies such as prescription medication and cognitive, or talk therapy. In another study, conducted by The Mayo Clinic on anxiety disorders reported benefits from exercise alone, which rivaled those of the leading drug.

Aside from the direct benefits exercise has on the body and brain, working out offers many secondary ways to boost mood.  Working out can be a social activity. Taking a class, joining an activity group such as a hiking or cycling club, or even strolling around the neighborhood can increase interaction with others and provide distractions from emotional concerns.

Exercise also improves body image.  Weight loss and increased satisfaction with appearance can also improve mood. Not only that, embracing an exercise regimen generally means committing to a healthier lifestyle overall, including eating healthier, mood-supporting foods such as those rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and B-vitamins which support the production of mood regulating neurotransmitters.

What’s more, working out encourages a sense of control. Making the commitment to an exercise program can encourage better coping strategies in other areas of life and reduce feelings of powerlessness.  Choosing to work out instead of indulging in other less healthy behaviors can boost self-esteem and restore a sense of confidence.

Exercise is for everyone.  With benefits not just for the body but also the spirit, a regular workout routine can boost confidence, improve mood, and change lives – one step at a time.

About the Author: Jim Rollince is a member of the creating writing department of Gym Source, a seller of home gym and training equipment including treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, arc trainers and more--

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