With everything that’s happening in the world today and living lives of constant and never-ending activity, it seems our stress and anxiety levels reach new highs each day.

Taking care of our mental well-being is crucial. 

Controlling our mood is a must, too. Otherwise, it will quickly control us, plunging us into overwhelm and depression. 

Of the many tools and rituals for reducing stress and finding calm, exercise is among the best.

Physical activity improves mood. 

Research has proven time and again its many positive impacts.

Why does exercise boost your mood?

Exercise causes the brain to release a neurotransmitter called endorphins.

Endorphins interact with receptors inside the brain, reducing pain and triggering positive feelings throughout the body. 

Have you ever heard someone refer to a “runner’s high”? It’s the euphoric state runners often feel at some point during their run. 

The euphoria comes from all the endorphins released during a strenuous workout. 

Once the runner slows down, that wash of chemicals courses through their bodies, making them feel extremely happy, content, and satisfied. 

But, is pounding the pavement for endless miles the only way to enjoy exercise-induced euphoria?

Absolutely not! Although it’s called the runner’s high, this euphoric experience accompanies many other physical activities.

Other neurotransmitters are released during exercise besides endorphins.

Two other neurotransmitters released by physical activity are serotonin and dopamine, critical players in mood regulation. 

Serotonin is nicknamed “the feel-good” hormone because it makes a person feel satisfied and happy, which is why it helps regulate mood, appetite, and sleep patterns. 

The more a person exercises, the more serotonin will be available for the brain to receive. 

Similarly, dopamine, nicknamed “the reward” hormone, is directly tied to your feelings of pleasure and motivation. 

When you exercise, you boost dopamine levels, leaving you feeling accomplished and satisfied at the end of a workout session.

How does exercise reduce stress levels?

Exercising regularly reduces the amount of stress hormones in the body, such as adrenaline and cortisol. 

Adrenaline is the “go” hormone that spikes and triggers you into action when extreme stress hits, like the sudden rush you feel when slamming on your car’s brakes to avoid a collision. 

That rush you feel is adrenaline surging through your body to help you think fast, act quickly, and, in this case, hit those brakes! 

Adrenaline is helpful when it functions as designed. But, if you’re constantly on edge and stressed out, it can cause major damage to your body. 

Cortisol levels rise whenever you’re stressed. And, like adrenaline, too much cortisol in your system for an extended period without relief (chronic stress) can create physical issues that cause discomfort and increase the risk of disease. 

Exercise helps your stress levels and boosts your mood in another significant way: it can improve your sense of self-esteem and self-confidence, both of which are necessary for your overall well-being. 

Sticking with your plan and seeing yourself improve over time and achieve fitness goals is something to be proud of. It should give you a sense of accomplishment while boosting your self-esteem. 

Regular physical activity can improve your body image and help you see yourself more positively.

How much exercise for mood enhancement?

According to experts at Harvard Health, not much! 

Even a simple fifteen minutes per day of running or an hour of walking can boost your mood, ease stress, and combat depression. 

Though specific amounts of exercise were recommended from the study’s findings, the doctors at Harvard Medical School emphasized that any amount of exercise has the power to combat feelings of depression and boost one’s mood. 

The quality of your life is directly tied to the quality of your mindset, which you can improve and brighten with a few minutes of physical activity every day. 

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