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Exercise: The key for a good mood and healthy mind

From ancient philosophers to modern health scientists, a lot has been said about the effect of exercise on human psychology, mood and cognitive function. Recent scientific evidence suggests that exercise helps people to develop their spiritual skills and better manage their stress levels. There are obvious effects that all those who exercise experience and and are aware of, but there are also some effects that people may not be aware of, but certainly deserve our attention. The emotional effects of exercise are mixed, as people who exercise experience both positive and negative feelings. This must be normal, as people who exercise are likely to experience difficulties and negative emotions during training, in addition to the positive benefits that they feel through the training session.

For example, runners often describe an emotional state of well-being that they experience during - and shortly after - a race or training session that they usually refer to as 'runner's high'. The runner experiences a state of happiness, joy, harmony, euphoria and a reduced sense of pain. Runner's high is mainly due to increased secretion of endogenous opioids in the brain, particularly β-endorphin, a hormone that many call the "hormone of happiness" [1]. Activating this system of endogenous opioids leads unexpectedly to the runner experiencing a rich experience of euphoria and a sensation of overcoming space and time. After exercising, the person feels calm, balanced and experiences an improvement in mood. Naturally, in addition to running, the euphoria of exercise is experienced by all kinds of athletes and people who take part in many other types of physical activity.

But beyond this experience that is transient, exercise is also effective in reducing stress and preventing depression. The results of most long-term studies suggest that aerobic exercise has antidepressant effects, and protects against the harmful physical and psychological effects of stress. Exercise is actually considered as effective as psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy in the fight against anxiety disorders [2]. It is also used synergistically in the treatment of depression. This protective effect of exercise can be cause by increased secretion of neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, etc.) and endogenous opioids such as β-endorphin. These mechanisms have multiple positive effects on our brains. They affect the brain centres that control our emotions, as well as positively affect the stress system and the parts of the brain linked to reward [3]. All of this, combined with the feeling of success and the improvement of the self-esteem and self-confidence of the person who exercises regularly [4], make them better able to cope with the demands of their environment, manage the stress of daily life more calmly and effectively, have a better mood overall and not show symptoms of depression.

 

 

Sources: 

  1. Farrell, P.A., et al., Enkephalins, catecholamines, and psychological mood alterations: effects of prolonged exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1987. 19(4): p. 347-53.
  2. Wipfli, B.M., C.D. Rethorst, and D.M. Landers, The anxiolytic effects of exercise: a meta-analysis of randomized trials and dose-response analysis. J Sport Exerc Psychol, 2008. 30(4): p. 392-410.
  3. Dietrich, A. and W.F. McDaniel, Endocannabinoids and exercise. Br J Sports Med, 2004. 38(5): p. 536-41.
  4. Ekeland, E., F. Heian, and K.B. Hagen, Can exercise improve self esteem in children and young people? A systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Br J Sports Med, 2005. 39(11): p. 792-8; discussion 792-8.
  5. Colcombe, S. and A.F. Kramer, Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults: a meta-analytic study.Psychol Sci, 2003. 14(2): p. 125-30.
 
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