We’ve all felt the feeling of euphoria that comes after a satisfying bout of exercise. If the exercise was particularly strenuous, we may mistake it for a wave of emotional relief that the torment is now over, but in truth it is something deeper than that.
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As well as helping to hone our bodies, physical exercise has a major impact on our emotional well-being, and has been used as an effective and natural way to combat depression and anxiety.
But why is that? Here are a few of the ways exercise helps to improve our mood and brighten our outlook on life.
You might have heard the phrase “runner’s high” and dismissed it as a general term for someone who feels good about their running ability. In fact, a runner’s high is caused by the release of chemicals called endorphins – similar to morphine – into the brain.
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The body releases these chemicals during exercise and they contribute to the almost superhuman feats of strength and pain-cancelling endurance displayed by athletes. A marathon runner carrying on and on despite her body being on the verge of exhaustion? A swimmer ignoring the cramp in his muscles to complete a race? Endorphins have a big part to play in both.
Regular exercise has been proven to help us to sleep better, which in turn improves our general health, both physically and mentally.
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We live in a hectic world and many people find it increasingly difficult to get the recommended 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night, which might not seem like too much of a problem, but it is. The fact that use of sleep deprivation as a punishment is outlawed under the Geneva Convention might give you some indication of how much of a problem this can be.
[LINK http://www.end-your-sleep-deprivation.com/dr-william-dement.html Dr William Dement of Stanford
University] has spent much time researching the effects of inadequate sleep, and has identified links to disorders such as anxiety and depression. Other dangers of a lack of sleep include inability to process glucose properly and a marked increase in appetite.
Exercise also greatly improves confidence. Exercising regularly serves as proof to yourself that you have the self-discipline and determination to follow through on an exercise plan. This in itself will give your self-esteem a boost.
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This boost will be augmented as you begin to see the results of your exercise plan in your body when you look in the mirror. Improved confidence, better body-image and a general brightening of mood all go hand in hand with a regular exercise regime.
So if you’re feeling down in the dumps, grab your trainers and head out for a jog!