Our bodies don't work well if we don't move. There's plenty of research on the benefits of exercise--particularly to lift one's mood. Although all types of exercise can help, the type of exercise that is recommended to treat mood disorders is vigorous aerobic exercise. And it only takes about 20 minutes before serotonin and dopamine, the "feel-good" hormones, kick in and help you feel happy and calm. Since you'll also look better if you exercise, your confidence and self-esteem will improve. Whoo hoo!
Examples of aerobic exercise include dancing, brisk walking, cross-country skiing, jogging, and cycling. There are many machines that simulate the movements of running, walking, rowing, skiing, and stair climbing. Before you spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars, go to a gym for a while and see what you enjoy. And there's nothing quite like walking outside.
Many of my clients use the same excuse that I have used: I don't want to walk outside in bad weather. To quote my friend Kristen, "There's no such thing as bad weather. There's only bad clothing." Point taken.
You'll still get the benefit of a serotonin release if you do something less vigorous like strolling, stretching, yoga, Tai Chi, ballroom dancing and gentle weight lifting. Do something that you enjoy!
The medical benefits of exercise are numerous. You'll lower your cholesterol, prevent certain cancers as well as chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. You'll be able to handle the stress in your life more easily. It puts the spark back in your sex life. Your heart and lungs will become more efficient, and you'll have more energy and endurance. You'll probably sleep more soundly and wake up more refreshed. Convinced? Wait, there's more...
If you've ever struggled with depression or anxiety, you'll find that exercise works better than any antidepressant. Naturally, you should always consult with your doctor. However, many of my clients have been able to gradually reduce their antidepressant usage by following a vigorous, regular exercise routine as well as eating healthy foods. They find that exercising a minimum of an hour a day helps their mood.
Not only does exercise add years to your life, new evidence tells us that it can reverse the aging of the brain. Professor Art Kramer of the University of Illinois, a top cognitive neuroscientist, argues that a large body of evidence shows the benefit of aerobic exercise and physical activity on the aging brain. Any exercise which leaves you breathless can increase both the volume of brain tissue and the brain's ability to perform executive functions, such as task coordination, planning, goal maintenance, memory, and the ability to switch tasks.