How to boost your mood with exercise
There is plenty of research existing now that reports exercise and movement as a natural mood booster. But how long does it actually take to reap those rewards?
It only takes around 5 minutes of moderate exercise for your body to get this effect of the mood-enhancing affect. Moderate exercise can be anything that get your heart elevated, gets you slightly out of breathe and warms your body which is the blood pumping faster.
All that’s needed is a 5 minute brisk walk around the block for an instant gratification mood boost.
During these 5 minutes the body is releasing feel good chemicals– serotonin and endorphins which are the body’s mood boosters. Moderate exercise also reduces the stress hormones: cortisol, noradrenaline, and adrenaline. These are the stress hormones which cause headaches, migraines, insomnia and irritability, and in excess are linked with depression, anxiety.
Don’t skip exercise when you’re feeling down
Often we skip the workout at the very time it has the greatest payoff.
Avoiding exercise when you feel bad is like deliberately staying up late after you had a terrible night’s sleep the night before and struggled through the day.
That’s the time you get the payoff.
When we feel this way is helpful to remind ourselves just how much better you feel when you exercise.
Think outside the box
Something a lot of weekend warriors struggle with is the concept of doing a shortened session. We can be caught in the trap of all or nothing thinking that an exercise session is at the least 1hour and must be a hard slog which leaves us feeling sweaty. This can play into those doubting thoughts when we are deciding whether to show up or not when we are feeling average.
Here are a couple of suggestions for mood boosting exercise:
- Take ten minutes at lunch time and walk around the block. Even better if you can get amongst some nature or trees as studies show that a walk in nature over an urban environment can reduce rumination.
- If you’re a gym go-er, make a list of your favourite exercises, set the timer for ten minutes and take yourself through an EMOM workout. Don’t overthink it, just do it, and remember to reflect on how you felt afterwards and store that memory in your hard drive.
- Do some light stretching or foam rolling at home, get your body moving and concentrate on breathing and muscle contractions. If you are not sure what to do jump on YouTube and have a look for 10 mins stretch sequence or mood bosting yoga.
- Go for a dip in the ocean or pool. The hypnotic regularity of a swim stroke and guidance of the black line on the bottom of the pool can provide a perfect opportunity for giving your mind some space to re-set whilst adding to the mood boosting endorphins.
- Borrow you friends/neighbours/ sister’s kids and play with them all afternoon: Frisbee, tag, soccer. Kids seem to have unlimited energy and I guarantee you will tire before they do. They don’t care if you’re not very good and you will have big brownie points for getting them outside and away from the screens.
- If you have a bit longer on the weekend go for a road trip and find a bushwalk or scenic track to try out. Take your time and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature.
Ongoing benefits of exercise on mental health
It is also important to recognize that continued and regular exercise also improves self-esteem and resilience, improves memory and cognition, reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression long term, and reduces risk of Alzheimer in older adults.