Well, I write this article in the week of the election and by the time this is being read, the results will be in. It’s fair to say that the whole process has been a rather depressing one to observe. Rather than promoting any true message of positivity, debates and discussions have centred on: ‘if you think we’d be bad, imagine having them!’ Not to mention, the now worryingly regular attacks across the UK. It’s enough to make you want to pull the duvet over your head and hope that your dreams are a little more positive than the reality.
Yet, with a stiff upper lip, we’ll get out and keep going. In truth, there is an awful lot of sense behind this reaction. Our best reaction, in fact, would be to get out and be active – to exercise. Exercising has an abundance of positive effects on the mood and mental health. There is often talk of the physical benefits of exercise: prevention and treatment of different types of diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, and osteoporosis; but what about the psychiatric benefits?
We live in a stress-filled society – weekly targets, pressures, a steady stream of negative news. Managing this stress is vital for our short- and long-term health. Numerous studies report of improvement of various other aspects such as self-esteem, vitality, general well-being, and satisfaction with physical appearance following extended periods of physical activity. Evidence also indicates that regular physical activity may protect against the development of depression, or that physical inactivity might be a risk factor for depression. Just from a personal point of view, consider, how do you tend to feel once you’ve exercised? Not during the session when you are calling your lovable trainer every conceivable profanity going, but afterwards. I’m sure you feel fitter, healthier and with a string sense of achievement.
But physically, what is happening to help us to feel this way?
Whilst there is no clear evidence which completely determines what is happening – two hypotheses exist with an ever-growing support of literature.
The first is that there is an increased neuronal release of monamine neurotransmitters. The popular terms for some of these are dopamine, adrenalin and serotonin. These combined – have a major impact in levels of arousal, emotional control and cognitive functioning. They are also stimulated to treat psychiatric disorders such as depression.
The second hypothesis is that of endorphin release. Rather than endorphins – or to quote its scientific term, beta-endorphin – causing a major uplifting effect, in fact, its role is to inhibit effects on the central nervous system which brings a sensation of calm and improved mood.
What we know for sure is that whether it is the monoamine neurotransmitters or the beta-endorphins, or something that has yet to be discovered – exercise will boost your mood and lower your stress! So turn off the election buzzword bingo and instead get active. Your brain will undoubtedly thank you for it.
If you are stuck for exercise ideas, make sure you try out one of our workout plans.