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Even Small Amounts of Physical Exercise Can Benefit Your Brain

At last count, I’ve amassed 22 excuses to not go to the gym. They’re really stories, yarns I spin in my mind… I’m too tired, I’m too hungry, I don’t have the time, I can get one more thing accomplished at the office, I just want to go home and veg, and on and on. The following is some science that can challenge some of the accuracies of our excuses.

The benefits and advantages of exercise in decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety have been scientifically well-established. Science indicates the positive mood effects of exercise, are independent of fitness gains. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you get big muscles or a smaller waist; your mood will improve.

Here’s what the research says.
• A rise in temperature following exercise in parts of the brain, such as the brain stem, can lead to an overall feeling of relaxation and reduction in muscle tension.
• An increase in endorphins following exercise is related to a positive mood and an overall sense of well-being.
• Exercise leads to an increase in the availability of other brain chemicals (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) that are diminished with depression.
• Exercise serves as a distraction from worries and depressing thoughts. The use of distracting activities as a means of coping with depression and anxiety has been shown to have a positive influence on managing mood.
• During periods of depression and anxiety, people often believe that they can’t accomplish tasks or be successful (self-efficacy). Exercise provides an effective means through which self-efficacy can be enhanced based on its ability to provide the individual with a meaningful mastery experience and an enhanced feeling of coping.

Here’s the really good news… Setting a goal of 3 exercise sessions per week for 10 minutes, and working toward 20 minutes per day 3 times a week, at a moderate intensity, is enough to significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.