by Jeff Levine and Tina Angelotti with Nathan Robert Brown
It is very common these days for doctors to prescribe drugs for anxiety or depression or to suggest treament with psychotherapy. These methods are effective, but exercise can be just as beneficial.
All types of exercise are effective, but it has been shown that the longer the duration of the training bout, the greater the anti-depressant effect. Although exercise alone can help, it may be best to combine exercise and psychotherapy to obtain the greatest results.
The Elation of Exercise
Have you ever noticed when you finish an exercise session that you have feelings of satisfaction, happiness, or elation? These feelings or moods can last for hours, sometimes even days. Psychotherapists will say that exercise is an effective technique for changing a bad mood. People who exercise frequently know this well and use this technique to work through their anger, anxiety, or any other emotional state they may be feeling.
As mentioned earlier, regular exercise enhances one’s body image, thus enhancing self-esteem. It has been found that individuals with low self-esteem, and even individuals who have no problems with low self-esteem, are affected by this phenomenon. When it comes to children, positive changes in self-esteem have been associated with the involvement of physical education classes and after-school programs where sports and physical activity are emphasized. If it’s possible to begin this behavior in children, it is likely they will continue with this throughout their lifespan.
How and Why Does This Phenomenon Occur?
There are several ideas or theories to explain why exercise enhances psychological well-being. Unfortunately, there is not one theory that has enough support as the primary mechanism for causing these changes. On a physiological level, there is an increase of blood flow to the tissues of the brain.
This increase in blood flow also results in an increase in oxygen consumption to these tissues, which may create a sense of euphoria. Another explanation is that there are changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters so hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and serotonin (feel-good hormones) have a more powerful effect on the brain and human emotions.