Exercise helps alleviate some of the excess adrenaline and hormones that lead to some of these fluctuations. Exercise increases a release of natural endorphins, producing the “high” that the runners describe.
How can this help your mental health? When the amygdala, in the core of our brain releases serotonin, it can help correct the brains biochemistry. When the amygdala is impaired, there is a decreased speed of regulating our emotions and responding to emotional stimuli. Simply, regular exercise can help create positive brain chemistry and regulate our mood.
The pre-frontal cortex in our brain is positively affected by regular exercise. Exercise boosts the ability to plan, memorize, problem solve, and judge. When we exercise regularly, we improve our pre-frontal cortex and it's ability to help us navigate. Exercise can be an added bonus to exam preparation or planning a presentation at work because it positively affects our reaction and memory.
To kick your health up an extra notch, be mindful about time of day for exercise. Some people prefer working out first thing in the morning because they like the boost that it gives them before they start their day. Others prefer later in the day, when they can sweat out the stressors of the day. Either is fine! Just be mindful about exercising too late in the day, when an exercise boost can create issues with your sleep cycle.
Every step forward is a step to progress. You don’t need to run a marathon in order to feel the mental health benefits to exercise. Consistent low energy output works well. Start with a walk outside and see how you feel. Step by step, you will make progress.
Megan Bowling, M.A., LMFT
*Consult with your doctor when creating and maintaining a workout regime.