Friday, February 27, 2009

Exercise and Mood – The Mind Body Connection

Feeling down? Stressed? You’re not alone. According to the Washington University School of Medicine, 17.5 million Americans are affected by some form of depression and it’s no secret that most of us experience stress more often than we would like. A possible solution? Maybe you just need to exercise. Latest research shows that getting the body moving can dramatically change a person’s mood for the better and can even help addictive behavior. Be Happy, Move More A 2007 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that exercising helped people recover from depression better than medication. The connection between exercise and being happy is due, largely in part, to chemical reactions and nerve growth in the brain. “Research has shown that exercise increases the amounts of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, two important chemicals that can elevate mood. In fact, many of the prescription anti-depressant medications try to increase these chemicals as a way to improve mood,” says Dr. Amarish Dave, certified neurologist. “Research has shown that a nerve growth factor, VGF, increases in exercising brains, this nerve growth factor is believed to be important in elevating mood.” Additional Emotional Benefits Studies show that exercise can do more than make you happy. It can also aid in combating addictive behaviors and stress. According to Dr. Mitch Wallick, executive director of C.A.R.E. Addiction Recovery, the structure, discipline and chemical reactions of an exercise program greatly benefit those who are trying to rid themselves of an addiction. Most addictions, Dr. Wallick says, are the cause of an imbalance of the neuro-transmission system. The release of dopamine and serotonin from exercise is very beneficial to patients suffering from drug-induced depression and boosts self-esteem. Debbie Mandel, M.A., fitness and stress management expert, emphasizes, “Activity alleviates anxiety.” She says that exercise helps to shed inflammatory stress hormones and release endorphins. This enhances brain synapses, creates new neurons and raises a person’s stress threshold. How to Benefit It’s easy to benefit from all this research. Even moderate amounts of exercise can make create beneficial chemical reactions and growth in the brain. A study by University of Texas, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that just a 30-minute walk boosts mood. The participants strolled along on treadmills, but any form of walking will garner the same results – so you don’t even have to get sweaty to reap the mood enhancing effects of exercise. Article courtesy of Quality Health

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