Many people exercise in order to lose weight or maintain their health and shape. But, what some don’t know is that exercise can also be used as a way to manage mental health concerns like anxiety or depression. Exercise can do just as much for your mood as it does for your body. Studies have shown that any physical activity stimulates several chemicals in your brain that allow you to feel more relaxed.
Michael Otto, PhD, a professor of psychology at Boston University says, “The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong, usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”
Exercise for Depression Relief
According to the American Physiological Association, researchers believe “exercise alleviates depression by increasing serotonin levels (the neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants) or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (which supports the growth of neurons).” More research suggests exercise helps by regulating your sleeping pattern, which is known to have positive effects on the brain. As for the psychological explanations, psychologists believe exercise may boost a depressed person’s outlook. Exercise helps a person return to meaningful activity and providing a sense of accomplishment.
How Long Until You Feel Better?
Physicians repeatedly tell patients to work out in order to lose weight, lower cholesterol or prevent diabetes. Unfortunately, it takes weeks to see results. On the other hand, the exercise mood boost, offers almost instant gratification. “Many people skip the workout at the very time it has the greatest payoff. That prevents you from noticing just how much better you feel when you exercise,” he says. “Failing to exercise when you feel bad is like explicitly not taking an aspirin when your head hurts. That’s the time you get the payoff.”