Want to love yourself, your significant other and your workout routine a little more this Valentine’s Day? The key element might be found in your body’s chemistry during and after exercise. Whether the cold winter days have impacted your mood or you’re just looking for ways to decrease anxiety and depression, exercise is widely considered to be the healthy, natural way to improve your mental health as well as your physical health.
If you haven’t heard of anandamide you’re not alone. Science suggests, however, that it is the chemical most responsible for blocking feelings of anxiety and depression after and during a workout. If you’re still not familiar with that pleasant sensation, anadamide is also found in chocolate and explains why most people feel an improved mood after a bite.
Want more anandamide? To release anandamide, you need to engage in aerobic exercise for sixty minutes or a shorter intense HIIT session which releases anandamide in much less time.
Low levels of serotonin are associated with symptoms of depression. Exercise, though, increases the amount of these chemicals your body is able to produce, reducing depression and stress and helping your body counteract anxiety and depression.
To boost your levels of serotonin, you need to engage in sustained cardiovascular exercise like Zumba, CycleFit, or running for thirty minutes most days of the week. If thirty minutes feels too challenging either for your body or your schedule, breaking the sessions into three ten minute sessions each day still provides mood lifting benefits.
GABA is a naturally released neurotransmitter that helps to make you feel calm. In fact, common anti-anxiety drugs actually try to replicate this naturally occurring phenomenon.
Chemicals like anandamide and GABA explain why exercise is often touted as a natural relief for those suffering from depression. A research study conducted by Duke University found that exercise better managed symptoms of depression than medication.
Perhaps the best news about GABA benefits from exercise is that virtually any exercise will provide positive effects. To maximize the feel-good benefits, though, Duke University suggests yoga. As few as three months of sustained yoga practice can significantly reduce anxiety and depression.
No matter why you choose to exercise, the benefits are strongest when you maintain a consistent workout regimen. While you experiment with different types of exercise to find the one that feels best to your body, it’s also wise to consider how it makes you feel. Instead of focusing on the number on the scale, you can also be tracking your anxiety, your mood, your relationships with yourself and your loved ones.
What exercise or exercise class makes you feel happiest? Share your feedback in the comment section and perhaps we can all endure the cold month of February with a brighter mood.