As we often hear, exercising regularly and eating healthy are two things that are good for us and things that everyone should make a conscious effort to incorporate into their lives. These two components of health have been proven to lower your chances of developing heart disease, type II diabetes, heart attack and stroke. Additionally, exercise and healthy eating help people lose weight and gain muscle. What do they do for your mood, though? People often say that they go for a run when they are stressed, or that they will eat a nutritious breakfast in order to gain energy for the day ahead. We are all aware that these things are good for us, but not many people understand why.
Exercise and Mood
The American Psychological Association (APA) has done plenty of research on the topic and shares some knowledgeable information. One of their major findings is that not only does exercise have short-term effects, such as mood enhancement quickly after working out, but the findings also show long-term effects on the brain and body. There have been a few experimental studies conducted that showed that individuals who exercise regularly have less of a chance of developing depression, whereas individuals who do not exercise regularly, or ones who exercised regularly and then stopped, have more of a chance of developing depression.
Exercise Reduces Anxiety
Another area that has been researched and shared by the APA shows the effects of exercise on anxiety. They explain that when someone becomes anxious or panicked their brains and bodies react with the sensation of fear, setting off physical reactions such as sweating or racing heart. One of their findings suggests that exercises reduces these “fight-or-flight” sensations, and the chances of setting their body into panic.
Nutrition Benefits on Mental Health
Not only is exercise good for mood, but nutrition can also play a role in improving overall well being. There are many different vitamins and minerals that can have an effect on someone’s mood such as B vitamins or omega-3 fatty acids. However, other than the chemical changes that these vitamins and minerals add, they can also enhance mood just due to the fact that you are making a healthy change for yourself. Getting into the routine of cooking healthy meals, or building structure into when you choose to eat and how many times a day you are eating, can lead to an overall sense of self-motivation as well as a feeling of purpose. When a person changes their mindset from eating healthy to lose weight, to paying attention to what they are putting into their body because they want to make sure their body is being cared for and nourished properly, a new sense of love for one’s self can emerge. This can ultimately lead to a better mood and feelings of overall happiness.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are healthy ways, as well as unhealthy ways, of adding exercise and nutritional changes to your everyday life. If making a healthy change is something that you are interested in doing for yourself, speak to your therapist, doctor or nutritionist to learn how to effectively do this in a positive way. Some of these small changes can lead to big results.
Additional resources: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx
Bianca Marcu, LPC