LOW INTENSITY EXERCISE: A NATURAL, SAFE, AND EFFECTIVE MOOD BOOSTER
We are all aware of the physical benefits of exercise (improving strength, conditioning, and fighting disease to name a few). However exercise is ALSO considered essential for mental health and stress reduction. Studies show that exercise can effectively help to reduce fatigue, improve mood, energy, concentration, memory and alertness and enhance overall cognitive function.
Exercise improves overall cognitive function by increasing the production and release of endorphins (the feel good neurotransmitters) and improve blood flow and oxygen carrying capacity, which has a direct effect on the brain. Some people notice the effects immediately after a workout while others notice the cumulative effect.
Exercise also helps to balance our autonomic nervous system. Our autonomic nervous system controls bodily processes without our conscious involvement. Some things controlled by our autonomic nervous system include; heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, reproduction, pupil dilation, and sweating etc. The two main branches effected with exercise are our sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS).
As a society, we tend to send a disproportionate amount of time in our SNS (fight or flight). This can be stimulated in stressful situations like traffic, deadlines, work, family chaos and high intensity training. High intensity training (HIIT, spin, sprinting, bootcamp etc) is not at all bad as it does release endorphins and provides us with an outlet to help manage stress. The key here is to find balance.
Unlike high intensity exercise, lower intensity exercise like yoga, pilates, light aerobic exercise (jogging, swimming, walking) will help to stimulate our PNS (rest, digest and reproduce). Lower intensity exercise will not only help to release endorphins but it will also help to active our PNS. You will notice improved sleep, energy, and mood.
Alongside low intensity exercise; meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, even breathing deeply can help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and release endorphins.