Is all the hype about exercise true?

Turns out that yes, exercise can unlock your happiness hormone.

We have heard it many times: exercise helps you feel better, more energised and releases your brain’s ‘happy’ chemicals.  But is it true? And if so, how truly effective is it?

Turns out it is. Regular exercise is very effective for overall physical and mental health.  Research suggests a causal relationship between exercise and mental health.  Moreover, studies highlight that exercise has a positive impact on mood disorders such as anxiety, stress and depression.  This is mostly due to the impact that exercise has on biochemical mechanisms such as endorphins, neurotransmitters and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis – but I won’t bore you with the details!  The bottom line is this: exercise changes the levels of chemical in the brain, such as serotonin, stress hormones and endorphins.

Additionally, exercise has also been linked with reduced inflammation within the body, which contributes to better health in general, especially for people suffering from mood disorders.  When it comes to physical effects, exercise can reduce blood pressure, heighten cardiovascular fitness, encourage weight loss, while also acting as a prevention against chronic diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis and cognitive conditions – to name a few.  People who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional wellbeing, while also reduce the risk of developing mental illnesses. This may be partially linked to the fact that physical activity can help you sleep better, and good sleep is associated with better mood management.

Exercise is also linked with improved self-esteem and cognitive functioning, as well as, an improved quality of life. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that in recent years, doctors have started prescribing exercise.  Unfortunately, there is still plenty to do.  In fact, research suggests that exercise is still not recognised by mental health services as an intervention for care and treatment of mood disorders.  This is truly unfortunate, considering that for mild depression, research indicates that physical activity can be as effective as antidepressants!

So how can you get started?

Firstly, start slow.  A lot of people set unattainable goals and end up giving up before even starting.  It doesn’t take a lot of exercise or even strenuous exercise to reap the benefits.  Research shows that low or moderate intensity exercise is enough to experience a difference in your mood and thinking patterns.

Australia’s physical activity and sedentary guidelines recommend adults to be active on most days, ideally being active for at least 2.5 to 5 hours per week.  This activity can include moderate physical activity such as a brisk walk or swimming.

Most people struggle to include exercise in their routine because they feel they don’t have the time.  The good news is, you can fit your exercise routine into your weekend and still get the health benefits that you are looking for.  So don’t let your busy schedule get in the way.

At the end of the day, any exercise is better than none.  So whatever you can manage in a week, even attending classes such as Yoga and Pilates, can also have a lot of benefits on your mind and body.

You’ll thank yourself later!

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