Exercise has medicine-like effects on mood?

By: Shawn M. O’Brien, M.S.

Our delicate human bodies were meant to move (i.e.- run, lift, protect, hunt, gather, etc), but there are various other reasons why one should consider to “exercise” or participate and be consistently active in exercise programs like; running, weight training, yoga, dancing or organized sports.

Reasons to exercise can be as simple as increasing one’s self confidence/self worth or the reasons can be as important as decreasing incidence of cardiovascular disease, manage diabetes and/or increased quality of life.  Exercise, of numerous varieties, result in “significant reductions in a depressed mood, fatigue and cortisol levels, as indicated in a study of rowers on a workout protocol compared to those in a control group” (Perna, 1998).  Cortisol is a stress response hormone, which causes specific hormones to flood your body which causes your mood changes.  Without this bio-feedback system we couldn’t live, but when cortisol levels rise to dangerous levels, development of physical and mental disease and conditions can be brought on by chronic stress (Leland, 2010).

Varieties of exercise can be used to improve one’s emotional state, which will decrease cortisol levels and increase endorphins (hormones produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus produced during exercise to give a feeling of well being).  Not only do rowing, running, yoga and weight training produce significant levels of endorphins, they also aid in the reduction of cortisol, decrease appetite, decrease depression and increase levels of happiness. For example, a group with the regular habit of doing yoga with a method of meditation, breathing and self-guided imagery showed lower scores of negative mood scale and higher scores of positive mood scale, lower levels of s-cortisol compared to the group without this regular habit (Watanabe, E, 2002).

Want to have a better workout? Consider a program consisting of yoga, stretching, cardiovascular training, weight training, recreational events and meditation can have long-term benefits for not only your mental health, but your physical health.  A variety of these activities performed 4-7 days a week with variations of intensity will be best.  Please see your doctor for clearance and visit a reputable personal trainer for further exercise programming. 

Look Good. Feel Good. Play Good.

Leland, Kevin, “The Effects of Stress, Cortisol, Serotonin and Exercise,” STRESS, 2010.

Perna, FM, “Cognitive-behavioral intervention effects on mood and cortisol and during exercise training.” Annual Behavior Medical Journal. 1998 Spring:20(2):92:8.

Watanabe, E, “Altered Responses of Saliva Cortisol and Mood Status by Long-period Special Yoga

Exercise Mixed with Meditation and Guided Imagery.” Journal of International Society of Life

Information Science. 20, pg 2, 2002.

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