Exercise, in many ways, can be a magic elixir when it comes to your mental outlook. Just note how well you feel immediately following after your workout. Studies have shown exercise can boost mood, alleviate symptoms of depression and improve your memory.
That’s right, it can even make you smarter.
But exercise can also help you deal with anxiety. Here’s how.
Your Brain and Endorphins
When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins and these chemicals help the body combat stress. Eating, drinking, and sexual activity can produce similar feelings.
In addition to improving sleep patterns, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggested a regular exercise routine might decrease the symptoms of anxiety, and as little as five minutes of aerobic activity can have anti-anxiety effects.
A Dutch study published in The Department of Biological Psychology agreed, showing those who exercised at least 60 minutes a week were less anxious and depressed, while a study in The Journal of Neuroscience demonstrated how exercise reorganizes the brain to reduce stress and limit anxiety.
Exercise and Memory
How exercise positively impacts your memory could be tied to the release of a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF. According to some research, this protein might reset your brain and memory during exercise, leading to the positive feeling you get afterward.
Some research shows BDNF may play a role in regulating stress and mood disorders, and is responsible for the survival of striatal neurons (These neurons exist in the striatum of the brain and “play a role in movement, reward, and goal-directed behavior.”)
One could argue that the more you exercise, the more reward neurons exist in your brain.
Exercising For Work
It should be noted that work shouldn’t stop you from your favorite routine. In fact, exercise might help if you want to perform better at work and keep anxious thoughts at bay. A University of Bristol study showed workers who exercised (before or during work) could better handle their daily tasks, compared to days on which they didn’t work out.
So the next time you find yourself stuck in a rut or need to blow off some steam, forget happy hour and get happy with exercise. It might turn your day around.