You do not have to commit an hour or more a day to reap the benefits. Twenty minutes a day, of a high intensity workout, will provide the benefits as Cathe Friedrich
(WWW.Cathe.com) refers to in the article below.
3 Ways Exercise Affects Brain Function and Mood
Published on 16 September 2012 by Cathe.Com
Most people work out to get their body in shape, but exercise does more than just make you look toned in a tank top – it also does good things for your brain and for your mood. Ever notice how good you feel after a workout? Exercise is a real mood-lifter and a natural stress reliever. Research suggests it may be effective for preventing and treating anxiety and depression as well. Ever wonder why? Here are three ways that exercise enhances well-being.
Exercise Affects Brain Opioids
You may have heard of opioids, morphine-like drugs that block pain signals. Doctors sometimes prescribe them for people in severe pain when the pain can’t be controlled by other methods. But not all opioids come in the form of a pill or an injection. The pituitary gland in your brain produces natural opioids. The best known of these are beta-endorphins. Some experts believe beta-endorphins are responsible for “runner’s high,” the euphoric feeling that runners get after pounding the pavement for a long period of time.
So how are beta-endorphins related to exercise? During a workout, the pituitary gland increases its production of beta-endorphins and sends more of these mood-lifting chemicals into your bloodstream. These chemicals make their way back to your brain and bind to receptors there, causing an elevation in mood and a reduced perception of pain. Beta-endorphins may mask pain and fatigue during long periods of exercise, such as a marathon run, so a runner can push through to the finish line. Not all experts are convinced that beta-endorphins completely explain the mood-lifting effects of exercise since it’s not clear whether they can re-cross the
blood-brain barrier to exert their benefits. Still, there’s a good chance that
some of those endorphins make it back to the brain.
What kind of exercise is best for boosting beta-endorphins? Even short periods of high-intensity exercise cause beta-endorphin levels to surge, so more intense exercise may be best for elevating your mood.
Exercise Changes Brain Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain and nervous system that transmit information from nerve cell to nerve cell. It’s the primary way nerve cells communicate with one another. There are a number of neurotransmitters including serotonin, norepinephrine, acetylcholine and dopamine that affect functions like sleep appetite, memory, sexual behavior, aggression, movement and mood. People who are depressed have imbalances in some of these neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, norephinephrine and dopamine. Exercise increases levels of neurotransmitters that affect mood in a manner similar to anti-depressant medications. Some studies suggest that exercise is as effective as anti-depressant medications for treating mild to moderate depression. Changes in neurotransmitter levels in response to exercise may at least partially explain why exercise boosts
Brain Wave Changes
Your brain is constantly in motion, even though you may not be aware of it. It produces four kinds of waves called alpha, beta, theta and delta waves. Alpha waves are brain waves associated with a relaxed or meditative state. People who meditate or practice yoga are familiar with the “alpha state.” As it turns out, you don’t have to be in a relaxed state to get the benefits of these “feel good” waves. Exercise increases alpha waves, especially high-intensity exercise. This is another explanation for how exercise reduces stress.
The Bottom Line?
Exercise is not only good for physical health – it’s a mood-booster as well. Exercise, especially high-intensity exercise, not only affects brain chemicals like neurotransmitters and endorphins, it alters brain waves in the same way meditation does. Next time you’re feeling a little down or “stressed out,” lace up your exercise shoes and do a challenging high-intensity exercise session. Chances are you’ll feel better afterwards.
Mayo Clinic. “Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress”
Exercise Treatment for Major Depression: Maintenance of Therapeutic Benefit at 10 Months. Psychosomatic Medicine, September/October 2000.
Harvard Health Publications. “Exercise and Depression”
Fitness and Your Health. Fifth Edition. David C. Nieman. Bull Publishing Company.