Is there a connection between exercise and mood?
There are a huge number of reasons to exercise. It’s one of the most powerful ways to improve your overall health, including your skin health. Long-term, exercise might be one of the very best medicines there is.
But for me, there’s another very important reason to exercise. It’s simple, and I can see the results immediately. Exercise has a huge impact on mood. Put simply, people feel happier, less stressed, and are even less likely to be depressed when they’re getting enough exercise. In my life, I’ve certainly experienced this. Moving my body is key for me to feel my best.
How does exercise improve mood?
When you exercise, your body releases a number of different chemicals, including:
Endorphins. These are natural “feel-good” chemicals, which can help to lift your mood.
Endocannabinoids. These tend to promote a feeling of calmness, and to reduce anxiety.
Dopamine. This is sometimes known as the “pleasure neurotransmitter,” because it’s released when we’re really enjoying something. Dopamine tends to make us feel satisfied and happy.
In addition, exercise impacts cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone – it’s normally released in higher amounts when you’re stressed. Exercise itself is actually a physical stress on the body, and cortisol rises while you’re working out (or playing!), to help the body cope with the demands of exercise. However, after you’re done exercising, cortisol levels will drop. This is part of how exercise helps you to feel less stressed – it can help cortisol levels to return to normal.
Exercise also improves blood flow throughout the body, including to the brain. This is crucial for allowing the brain to function at its best, which helps to keep our mood stable. It also causes the release of signaling molecules in the brain that help to promote memory and focus – so if you’re having trouble concentrating or remembering things, a few minutes of exercise might be just what you need.
How much exercise do you need?
The recommendations for general health are to try and get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. This amount is a good recommended target for mental health too. That’s about 20 minutes a day, or 30 minutes a day for five days a week (with two days off). It’s really not a huge commitment, especially for something with such powerful benefits. “Moderate” exercise means that you’re a little bit out of breath, but not too much. You can talk, but you can’t shout or sing.
If you’re not currently in the habit of exercising, you can try to start small. Try just five minutes each day. You could put on your favorite song and dance your heart out, or go for a quick walk in your neighborhood. See how this makes you feel. Once you notice how great exercise feels, you’ll be motivated to do even more. Exercising more will make you feel better, and then it will be easier to motivate yourself to exercise even more. It becomes a “virtuous cycle” (the opposite of a vicious cycle).
For myself, I simply don’t feel at my best if I don’t get at least a little bit of exercise in every day. Because I know how great it makes me feel, I don’t think of it as a chore, something that I dread but know I have to do. Instead, I look forward to it. Many people start to feel this way about exercise once they notice the impact on their mood.
Maybe you’re among the many people who knows about the long-term health benefits of exercise, but just can’t seem to get motivated to do it. It could be the impact of exercise on your mood that finally helps you to get over the hump and form an exercise habit that lasts.
If you’d like some support as you work towards this goal, I invite you to join us inside Mind Gut Skin Academy. This transformational program will help to support you in optimizing all aspects of your lifestyle, including your exercise plan, to help you feel your very best in your own skin. The brand-new version of the program will be launching soon – you can learn more, or get on the waitlist, here.