Did you know that just one hour of exercise a week has been linked to lower levels of mood, anxiety and substance use disorders? This is just one of the many facts put forth by Mental Health America as part of this year’s Mental Health Month. The year’s theme, Fitness #4Mind4Body, is designed to educate people on how both physical and mental health play a big role in preventing and/or managing mental health conditions.
Exercise, for example, not only helps to keep symptoms of mental illness at bay, but it’s also an important part of treatment. Some studies even say that the effects are similar to cognitive behavioral therapy.
This is partly because exercise increases a variety of substances that impact brain function and mood. Here’s a look at a few:
- BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) regulates depression-like behaviors.
- Endorphins are responsible for the euphoric feeling known as a “runner’s high” that happens after long periods of intense exercise.
- Serotonin plays a role in sending messages to the brain about appetite, sleep and mood.
- Dopamine has a role in how the body perceives rewards and it’s heavily involved with addictions. Low levels of dopamine have been linked to depression, schizophrenia and psychosis.
- Glutamate and GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) both act to regulate the activity of nerve cells in the parts of the brain that process emotions and the ability to think clearly. Low levels of GABA have been linked to depression, anxiety, PTSD and mood disorders.
So how much exercise do you need? The MHA recommends breaking up activity into short bursts – 10 minutes, 15 times per week – in order to reach the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity. Another tip: Do your best to incorporate physical activity into things you already do – whether parking further at the grocery store or taking the stairs more often.
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NorthStar Transitions offers clients general wellness programming so they can develop healthy habits and routines that can be used during and after addiction treatment. To learn more about our programs and services, call today: 303-625-6335.