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Health & Nutrition
Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD

Exercise and Mood: The Benefits According to Science

Regular exercise significantly enhances mood and emotional well-being. Physical activity helps regulate mood-improving neurotransmitters, increases brain health proteins like BDNF, and reduces stress hormones such as cortisol. Various types of exercise, from aerobic exercise like running and walking to yoga, have been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and can even complement traditional treatments for mental health disorders. Essentially, incorporating exercise into daily routines is a natural and effective way to boost mood and mental health!


The interplay between exercise and emotional well-being has garnered increasing interest among psychologists and fitness experts alike - and rightly so! Beyond the physical benefits like improved heart health, longevity, and metabolic wellness, exercise is renowned for its mood-boosting effects. But what does science say about this amazing link? In this article, we explore the mental health benefits of exercise according to science.


The Health Benefits of Exercise On Mood

The connection between regular physical activity and enhanced mood is well-documented. A meta-analysis in JAMA Psychiatry analyzed numerous studies and concluded that physical activity significantly reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. The American Psychological Association echoes this, noting exercise's role in releasing endorphins, natural mood enhancers. This effect is not just limited to depression; exercise is also beneficial for reducing anxiety symptoms, as indicated by various studies. [1] [2]


Biological Mechanisms: How Exercise May Affect the Brain

 Exercise may improve your mood through several biological processes:

  • Neurotransmitter Regulation: Exercise boosts levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that play key roles in mood regulation. [3]
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF): This protein, vital for the growth and survival of neurons, is increased through exercise, supporting overall brain health. [4]
  • Stress Reduction: Physical activity has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone, aiding in stress and anxiety reduction. [5]


Types of Exercise and Mood Enhancement



Different types of exercise, such as aerobic exercises (like running and swimming), strength training, and yoga, have been shown to positively impact mood. Research has indicated that even moderate activities like walking can offer significant mood-enhancing benefits. A study published in The Lancet Psychiatry found that people who exercise regularly reported fewer days of poor mental health compared to those who did not exercise. [6]

Exercise as a Complementary Therapy for Mental Health Disorders



Increasingly, exercise is being recognized as a complementary therapy for mental health disorders. A study in The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders reported that exercise can be an effective adjunctive treatment for major depressive disorder. This is particularly relevant given the global burden of mental health issues, where accessible and cost-effective treatments like exercise can play a crucial role. [7]

Practical Tips for Incorporating Exercise into Daily Life



Incorporating exercise into daily life doesn't have to be daunting!

Starting with achievable goals, such as a daily 20-30 minute walk or simply a few yoga poses in the morning, can make a significant difference.

Also, research shows that exercising in groups can help to increase motivation and improve health outcomes. We all know it’s easier to achieve our goals when we’ve got others cheering us on - so think about getting your friends or family members together to work out!

Gradually increasing the intensity and duration as comfort and fitness levels improve can help maintain consistency and lasting results for a happier mood!

Final Thoughts

The scientific evidence backing the mood-enhancing effects of exercise is compelling. Regular physical activity is not only crucial for physical health but also plays an essential role in mental well-being.

By incorporating regular exercise into our lives, we can tap into a natural, effective way to boost mood and improve overall emotional health!

Key Points

  • Regular exercise significantly enhances mood and emotional well-being.

  • Physical activity helps regulate neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are crucial for mood improvement and other mental health benefits.

  • Exercise increases Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), supporting neuron growth and overall brain health.

  • Engaging in physical activities reduces cortisol levels, aiding in stress and anxiety reduction.

  • A variety of exercise can help boost your mood, including aerobic activities, strength training, and yoga.

  • Scientific studies, including those in JAMA Psychiatry, show that exercise can reduce your risk of symptoms related to depression and anxiety.

  • Exercise is increasingly recognized as a complementary therapy for mental health disorders.

  • Practical tips for integrating exercise into daily routines include setting achievable goals like daily walks or yoga.
Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD
As a qualified Nutritional Therapist (BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD), Zaheera Swing has a deep passion for restoring balance and harmony to the body through the modalities of nutritional science, herbalism, and holistic lifestyle practices. Using the functional medicine model coupled with wisdom from ancient paradigms, she aims to provide insight into the underlying root causes of poor health and the holistic tools we can harness to enhance the well-being of mind, body, and spirit.
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