Joel Peterson, Personal Trainer

Joel Peterson – Level V Trainer

We have explored the myriad of ways that exercise benefits our body and mind. This week let’s expand on that and continue to reinforce our reasons to either begin or continue an exercise program. If you’re new to these articles please go back through our archives for great tips on exercise and nutrition.

As I mentioned in my first article, Let’s get Moving, exercise promotes the release of mood-boosting brain chemicals that help combat depression.

It’s just not natural to remain seated for hours on end like we do today, courtesy of computers, cars, and other gadgets that remove our need to get up, stretch, reach, bend, and move from one area to another. In fact, we’re now starting to realize just how bad it is to sit for long periods of time.

When we exercise a number of neurotransmitters are triggered, such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA. Some of these are well-known for their role in mood control. Exercise, in fact, is one of the most effective prevention and treatment strategies for depression.

How Does Exercise Alleviate Depression?

Improved Mood

To answer this question, you need to realize that a number of cascading changes occur when you exercise that contribute to improved mood and mental health. For starters, it helps normalize your insulin and leptin levels. It also boosts the production of mood-boosting hormones in your brain. Physical exercise changes the level of serotonin in your brain. And it increases your endorphin levels — your “feel good” hormones.

Aside from serotonin and endorphins (which are responsible for that feeling of euphoria you get with regular exercise), other chemical messengers also play a significant role. When you exercise, your brain recognizes the exertion as a fight-or-flight stress situation and releases Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).

This protein helps repair neurons, and acts as a “reset switch,” which may explain why solutions tend to come into clearer focus after a bout of exercise. Recent research has actually made it quite clear that exercise and brain health are inextricably intertwined. The evidence shows that physical exercise helps you build a brain that not only resists shrinkage, but increases overall cognitive abilities—and feelings of happiness.

Get Feeling Better

Wow! The reasons to be active and exercise are so compelling and they just keep growing. So, what are you waiting for? The time is here and now. Not someday when I’m feeling better or less depressed. Exercise will get you feeling better and less depressed. Give it an honest shot. You have nothing to lose but depression, excess weight and so on. And, you’ve got so much to gain. Come on, let’s get healthy together!

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