Even stretching can release endorphins! Image courtesy of stockimages at dreamstime.net
I recently remember a pretty typical day at uni. Suffering from depression long-term, I was dealing with a typical degree of low degree ennui and flatness.
I decided to go swimming with a close friend of mine. After about two laps of the pool I noticed something inside me subtly changing. My skin felt warmer, a sign my circulation was better.
However, it wasn’t until I did all that I could do (seven laps) and got out of the swimming pool, got dressed and was heading home with my friend that I began to feel really and truly like a different person.
I couldn’t explain it, but I felt alive. I was thinking clearer, and I was anything but depressed.
I hadn’t done an extreme amount of exercise, but this feeling lasted all day.
It really isn’t a myth. Exercise can help boost your mood by:
1. Increasing the natural productive of endorphins and enkephalins. These are natural opiod-like chemicals released in your brain after about twenty minutes of aerobic activity. They induce a feeling of well-being that can last for several hours at least after exercising. Endorphins are also released during weight-bearing activity or stretching. So it really doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do, you are sure to feel good after 20 minutes of whatever your chosen activity might be!
2 It improves circulation, increasing blood flow to the brain. This enables you to think clearer, and have more energy. When you feel foggy and tired, it is easy to get depressed. So exercise is a quick and easy to way to lift your mood by getting blood pumping to your vital organs.
Make sure it's social This has proven to have additive antidepressant effects..At the end of each lap, my friend would wait for me until I caught up with her (she is a lot fitter than me). This gave us chatting time between laps. We would laugh and tell a joke and forget about the days worries. This almost certainly added to the antidepressant effect of the activity.
On top of this, I have lost weight. Energy is not only burned during the aerobic activity, but for hours afterward. On top of this, muscle gained increases the basal metabolic rate (BMR), the baseline rate at which we burn calories.
Since then, I have to exercise every day. I remember how taken back I was by how such a small amount of activity can boost the mood. It must be pretty good because it’s replaced by daily coffee as a pick-me-up.
If you are prone to depression, exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing. However, trust me – give it a go for twenty minutes.however, do make sure you get your heart rate up. You will not be disappointed!