Improve your mood, improve your body

By Liz Montes

So, the other day we had somewhat of a difficult start. Occasionally, we have challenging situations in the gym. People come into the gym in not the best of moods. I get it, I know life is tough. I know we get depressed, sad, mad, tired or just plain “woke up on the wrong side” of the bed. But, when it’s so strong that others around them feel it, you know you have to do something. Not only should you try to help improve the energy and mood of that person, but, particularly for the persons participating in exercise with them.

Although, it will seem sometimes like you just cannot exercise today because you feel lousy. It really will be better for your mood, your body and the people around you if you do. Exercise is not just for losing weight… it is an excellent tool for mental acuity and cognitive function. Why do you think it lifts our moods? It’s very difficult to stay mad while you’re sweating and working the body.

One of the first things that begins to happen when you exercise is, it makes you breathe more. Muscles need oxygen. Our heart and lungs begin to pump oxygenated blood throughout our bodies. It increases the number of capillaries that deliver that blood to our bodies. It actually does “pump you up.” Meaning, you feel you have more energy. It’s very difficult to be in a bad mood while exercising.

The brain also receives this oxygenated blood flow. During and after exercise the brain receives higher levels of a neurotransmitter called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF helps build brain cells, and improves neuroplasticity, thus, the transmissions to the nervous system. That is why, activities like learning new things, having an appropriately challenged workout, etc. make you feel invigorated and even thinking more sharply. It helps you to develop new neural pathways and improve cognitive function. That is why workout changes and challenges are vital. It forces you again and again to activate the appropriate motor controls to then activate the muscles needed to execute an exercise properly. Most times, if you lose your concentration when performing an exercise, you lose the ability to perform the exercise properly.

Why is it that the reason the competitive sport games, i.e.: Spartan, Ironman, etc. are so successful? Not only is it fun, but it can be friendly competition and the participants feel great afterwards, whether they ended in first or last place. Remember the “high” of exercise? Well, that’s it! Exercise helps you to change the way you feel. It can also contribute to your social life. Just being with others who are doing what you are doing and are like-minded, connects you to them. With the fast pace world, technology and information overload, sometimes, we get “stuck” on our computers or I-Phones. Many of us probably connect more these days with our devices than with others.

By exercising you’ve now accomplished a goal. And, in some cases a very challenging one. It makes you feel good and recharges your brain.

What I love most about exercise is how it influences your energy levels. These increased levels of dopamine and serotonin, which feed the pleasure centers of the brain, are the reasons you feel great and/or high after your workouts. We all know that taking too much time off from exercise leads to muscle loss. We also know that stress and depression can influence how our brain functions; it can actually change brain chemistry. That means skipping your workouts when you are “‘not feeling well” is not a good idea, it can prolong that lousy feeling.

The more you exercise, the more efficient your body becomes at producing and using these neurotransmitters. Which may explain why some people when they have to miss workouts reluctantly report afterwards that they actually “missed” their workouts. And, that is a very good thing.


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