If you're like me and exercise regularly, I’m sure you are aware that exercise does a lot more than just burn calories! Since the era of Greek philosophy, physicians such as Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.) were outspoken about the conviction that good health is achieved through proper nutrition and regular physical activity. Regular exercise offers many health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, protecting against cancer and cardio vascular diseases, boosting self-esteem and lifting your mood.
Today, I’d like to focus your attention on the latter two. I remember how exercise pretty much saved my life after the birth of my third daughter. I was dealing with symptoms of post-partum depression, but also going through heartaches in my previous relationship. It is then, that I started working out. I quickly noticed improvements in my mood, my stress would magically vanish, and I felt like I could take on any challenge life would throw at me after getting through a tough boot camp class, or a 3 mile run on the treadmill.
Have you ever been out for a jog and felt that all your emotional problems had dissipated? Maybe not completely but a regular exercise program may help. According to an article in Harvard Health Publications, a review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression. It also may play a supporting role in treating severe depression. Another study published in the “Archives of Internal Medicine” in 1999, suggested that those who need or wish to avoid drugs; exercise might be an acceptable substitute for antidepressants. Avoid taking pills? Ok, for that alone I’m in!
HOW DOES EXERCISE RELIEVE DEPRESSION? For decades, experts have known that exercise enhances the actions of Endorphins “the feel good” hormone. You know that high you get after a nice sweaty strength training session or running? Endorphins improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain. Another theory is that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve your mood and the effect may last up to 24 hours after the exercise session!
I think Hippocrates was onto something when he said “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little, not too much; we would have found the safest way to health.” If exercise can offer so many health benefits including improving your mood and self-esteem; wouldn’t you rather take the “Exercise Pill”?
American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM's Exercise Management for Persons With Chronic Diseases & Disabilities (Kindle Location 1480). Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition.