They say, “when you look good, you feel good,” but it’s more than that; the real richness of that statement is much deeper. Looking good, as great as it feels, doesn’t come close to what you can gain from the true benefits of exercise. When we take care of our bodies in the best way we can, we’re opening ourselves up not just to looking our best, but actually to living our best lives—in mind, body and spirit.
What are some of the major benefits? Exercise is known to ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Along with the effects that take place in the brain like increasing your endorphin levels, it also lessens the fight or flight response we feel in stressful situations.
If extra stress comes from knowing you’ll have to get to the gym— good news—that doesn’t have to be your only option.
“Certainly running, lifting weights, playing basketball and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can physical activity such as gardening, washing your car, walking around the block or engaging in other less intense activities. Any physical activity that gets you off the couch and moving can help improve your mood.”
Whatever your heart-pumping pleasure, now is a great time to give it a go. Here are 5 Mood Boosting Exercises to Feel Good:
There is a reason that this is at the top of the list, it’s a great overall way to maintain or supersede your current work out goals. Why it works: “A 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine examined the anxiety levels and moods of people who practiced yoga for an hour three times a week. Yoga practice is associated with increased levels of GABA, an amino acid and neurotransmitter that may help reduce anxiety, according to Chris Streeter, a neurologist, a psychiatrist, and the lead author of the study. Also, slow, deep yogic breathing increases oxygen flow, which leads to optimal functioning of all your organs—including your brain, according to Anita Herur, M.D., an assistant professor of physiology at S. Nijalingappa Medical College, in India.”
Why it works: “When you spin your wheels, you’re not just spinning your wheels—even if your bike rides aren’t Tour de France length. Researchers at the University of Georgia in Athens (UGA) found that after a single 30-minute session of stationary cycling, subjects reported a boost in their energy levels. In addition, the authors of the study were able to record positive electrical changes in the subjects’ brains related to energy (the measurements were taken by an electroencephalogram). “The cycling seemed to activate brain neural circuits that make a person feel energized,” says Patrick O’Connor, a professor of kinesiology at UGA.”
Why it works: “In a 2006 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers found that even a single bout of exercise—30 minutes of walking on a treadmill—could instantly lift the mood of someone suffering from a major depressive order. In a May 2013 study inMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in which rats and mice got antidepressant-like effects from running on a wheel, researchers concluded that physical activity was an effective alternative to treating depression”
Why it works: “Research reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that walking 30 minutes a day boosted the moods in depressed patients faster than antidepressants. Why? Walking releases natural painkilling endorphins to the body – one of the emotional benefits of exercise. A California State University, Long Beach, study showed that the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were.”
Why it works, via John Moore, PhD.: “The reason I have recommended strength training to countless clients as part of an overall strategy to fight back against mild depression is fairly simple – it works. And while physical activity is a good way to push back against the blues, strength training provides the added long-term benefits of helping to stabilize mood while increasing two anti-depression bio-chemicals – serotonin and endorphins.”
With these five science-backed options, get started with these activities and find what works best for you. So long as you’re moving, you’re definitely making progress. Which activity is yours to figure out, each one, however, will provide you the jump-start you need to boost your mood, energy, and happiness for long-term success.