Exercise - It Goes to Your Head

Exercise - It Goes to Your Head

by Vicki Griffin, MS Human Nutrition, MPA

We hear a lot about the benefits of regular exercise on physical health.  But what about mental health?  Your best exercise machine may be your dog.  Just taking the dog for a daily walk can yield some surprising benefits—for you as well as Bowser!

Reduces Stress. 

  • Even a single bout of exercise can be a valuable short-term therapy for reducing tension, depression, anger, and confusion.[1] [2]
  • A ten-minute brisk walk will yield one hour of increased energy and reduced tension, whereas a sugary snack will ultimately result in fatigue and tension.[3]
  • Moderate-intensity exercise is even more beneficial than high-intensity exercise for anxiety reduction.[4]
  • Regular exercise increases the ability to handle stress by causing less stress hormone to be released when stress does occur.[5]

Improves Mood.

  • Regular exercising students show lower levels of anxiety, shyness, loneliness, and hopelessness than their less active peers.[6]
  • Moderate, regular exercise has a positive impact on mood, vigor, psychological well-being, creativity, and self-esteem in all age groups.[7] [8] [9] [10]
  • Animal studies show that regular exercise can reduce symptoms of depression, and may alleviate some major depression.[11] [12]

Boosts Brain Power.

  • Exercise increases cerebral blood flow, increases neurotransmitter availability and efficiency, and affects brain structure.[13]
  • Small increases in aerobic fitness improves mental fitness, particularly executive control functions of the brain, which have to do with planning, coordinating, and filtering out distracting information.[14]
  • Animal and human studies show that repeated physical activity triggers chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning and memory.[15] [16]
  • Children learn better when the brain is stimulated by exercising.[17]
  • People over age 60 who walk rapidly for 45 minutes 3 times a week can significantly improve mental processing abilities that would normally decline with age.[18]

Helps You Sleep.

  • Exercise can help alleviate sleep problems in older adults.[19]
  • Exercise can be effective in improving reported sleep quality, depression, strength, and quality of life.[20]
  • Treating chronic fatigue with appropriate exercise can improve sleep and mood.[21]
  • Exercising in the evening does not disturb sleep.[22]

 After man sinned, the Lord told man that he would eat by “the sweat of your face” (Gen. 3:19). What inestimable benefits were hidden in that brief directive!  How thankful we can be for the blessing of movement—motion balances emotion.  God knew that from the beginning and blessed man with exercise.

 [1]   The acute effects of exercise on mood state. Yeung RR. J Psychosom Res 1996 Feb:40(2)123-41. Review

[2]   Mood alterations with a single bout of physical activity. McGowan RW, et. al. Percept Mot Skills 1991 Jun:72(3 Pt 2)1203-9.

[3]   Energy, tiredness, and tension effects of a sugar snack versus moderate exercise. Thayer RE. J Pers Soc Psychol 1987 Jan:52(1)119-25.

[4]   Influence of resistance exercise of different intensities on state anxiety and blood pressure. Focht BC, Koltyn KF. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999 Mar:31(3)456-63. Erratum in: Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000 Feb:32(2)549.

[5]   Habitual physical activity facilitates stress-induced HSP72 induction in brain, peripheral, and immune tissues. Campisi J, et. al.  Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 2003 Feb:284(2)R520-30. Epub 2002 Oct 24.

[6]   Psychosocial discomfort and exercise frequency: an epidemiological study of adolescents. Page RM, Tucker LA. Adolescence 1994 Spring:29(113)183-91.

[7]  Relationships between self-efficacy and mood before and after exercise training.  J Cardiopulm Rehabil 1994:14:35-42.

[8]   Improved psychological well-being, quality of life, and health practices in moderately overweight women participating in a 12-week structured weight loss program. Rippe JM, et. al.  Obes Res 1998 May:6(3)208-18.

[9]   Mood changes following exercise. Lane AM, et al. Percept Mot Skills 2002 Jun:94(3 Pt 1)732-4.

[10] Mood change through physical exercise in nine- to ten-year-old children.  Williamson D, et. al.  Percept Mot Skills 2001 Aug:93(1)311-6.

[11] Exercise treatment for major depression: maintenance of therapeutic benefit at 10 months. Babyak M, et. al. Psychosom Med 2000 Sep-Oct:62(5)633-8.

[12] Exercise in treating depression: broadening the psychotherapist's role. Pollock KM. J Clin Psychol 2001 Nov:57(11)1289-300.

[13] Brain function and exercise. Current perspectives. Etnier JL, Landers DM. Sports Med 1995 Feb:19(2)81-5.

[14] Ageing, fitness and neurocognitive function.  Kramer AF, et. al. Nature 1999 Jul 29:400(6743)418-9.

[15] Prolonged exercise induces angiogenesis and increases cerebral blood volume in primary motor cortex of the rat.  Swain RA, et. al. Neuroscience 2003:117(4)1037-46.

[16] Exercise, experience and the aging brain. Churchill JD, et. al.  Neurobiol Aging 2002 Sep-Oct:23(5)941-55. Review

[17] Healy J. Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About It (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1991).

[18] Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults: a meta-analytic study.  Colcombe S, Kramer AF. Psychol Sci 2003 Mar:14(2)125-30.

[19] Physical exercise for sleep problems in adults aged 60+. Montgomery P, Dennis J. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2002:(4)CD003404. Review

[20] A randomized controlled trial of the effect of exercise on sleep. Singh NA, et. al. Sleep 1997 Feb:20(2)95-101.

[21] Treating chronic fatigue with exercise. Exercise improves mood and sleep.  Michael, A.  BMJ  1998 Aug 29:317(7158)600.

[22] Is sleep disturbed by vigorous late-night exercise? Youngstedt SD, et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999 Jun:31(6)864-9.

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