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Affects of Exercise on Mental and Emotional Health by Lauren Seers

By at December 18, 2012 | 8:53 am | Print

The positive effects of exercise on one’s physical health are very well known: it makes your heart stronger which allows more blood to be pumped with less effort as well as tones your skeletal muscles and burns fat. Along with the physical benefits exercise provides, it also has enormous positive effects on the brain and a person’s mood. Aerobic exercise leads to the release of an abundant of neurotransmitters and hormones which affect a person’s mood. Serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and endorphins are the major chemicals the brain releases during aerobic exercise. Serotonin is important in regulating a person’s emotional state and moods. Dopamine is involved in the feelings of reward and pleasure. Norepinephrine enhances alertness, arousal, and influences the reward system in the brain. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller and when enough is released, cause a feeling of euphoria.

Clinical depression is not fully understood in the medical community, however it is widely agreed that the cause is due to chemical imbalances in the brain. The major chemicals that seem to be lower than normal are the exact ones that are released during physical exercise: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Recent studies showed that rats that are regularly exposed to running on a wheel have higher levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in major areas of the brain, including the hippocampus and amygdala.  Recent studies involving patients who had been diagnosed with major depression showed that a low-intensity exercise program done 30 minutes a day for a ten day period had statistically significant improvements in their moods. More remarkably, subjects in the study who had previously not responded to prescription medication showed significant improvement. It is important that physical activity among people who have clinical depression be consistent, because this will result in a persistent release of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

Depression is a major side effect in people who are recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, which is why physical activity is increasingly becoming implemented in drug and alcohol dependence rehabilitation programs. Dopamine is directly involved in pleasure and reward; however it is also directly involved in addiction, mainly the use of stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines. Aerobic exercise is a new way for recovering drug addicts to receive the release of dopamine that they are used to. Along with the release of dopamine, exercise can replace the habit of using drugs because it relieves stress. It also releases a large amount of endorphins giving the person an adrenaline rush.

Regular exercise is beneficial for mental health; however recent studies have also shown that aerobic activity can also greatly improve a person’s sex life by increasing their sexual arousal and satisfaction. Recent studies have shown that the hormone oxytocin is released during exercises such as mountain biking and hiking. This hormone is responsible for stimulating sexual activity in both males and females, by creating a desire to bond with another person and have sexual intercourse; it also provides the sense of sexual satisfaction afterwards.

References

http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.stlcc.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA213722880&v=2.1&u=morenetsccol&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2829243/

 

http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/group/MestonLAB/Publications/Hamilton_JSM_08.pdf

 

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