Food for Thought
Need an Emotional Uplift?
Published Thursday, 10-Dec-2009 in issue 1146
When it comes to boosting your mood, exercise is the gift that keeps on giving and giving. In fact, the feel-good afterglow a workout brings may last far beyond the hour or so that’s been previously assumed.
“Moderate intensity aerobic exercise improves mood immediately and those improvements can last up to 12 hours,” concluded in a study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Seattle. Lead researcher Dr. Jeremy Sibold, assistant professor of rehabilitation and movement science at the University of Vermont, tracked the mood enhancing effects of exercise for a 24 hour period post exercise. Other studies have found a mood-boosting effect to exercise, but the other research hadn’t tracked the effect for as long as Sibold and his team did. “This is one of the few studies that actually looked at a much longer window, 24 hours,” he said. “The question I was interested in was, ‘How long does that feel-good effect, that improvement, last?’“
To find out, 48 healthy men and women were randomly assigned to a control group that did not exercise, or to a group that did exercise. The participants ranged from 18 to 25 years old. At the start of the study, all participants completed a standard survey of mood. The exercisers then rode on a stationary bike for 20 minutes at moderate intensity. All participants then repeated the mood survey at one, two, four, eight, 12 and 24 hours later.
The findings point yet again to exercise as a cheap, easily accessible tool against blue moods and even depression.
The mood of the exercisers was better than that of the sedentary group immediately after the workout and for up to 12 hours later, Sibold found. “This goes a long way to show that even moderate aerobic exercise has the potential to mitigate the daily stress that results in your mood being disturbed,” he said. Men and women seemed to benefit equally, and the fitness level of the participant didn’t seem to matter, the researchers noted.
Experts believe that exercise’s mood-boosting effects are partly due to a rise in levels of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, such as endorphins, in the brain. The findings point yet again to exercise as a cheap, easily accessible tool against blue moods and even depression. Depression is a wide spread disease that in part can be fought off by higher levels of activity. The “dose” of exercise needed to lift mood is not a lot, Sibold said. “We aren’t talking about a Lance Armstrong workout.” A few minutes a day could pay off, he said.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. That can be done in five days a week in 30-minute sessions. The key is to find something you enjoy; walking, jogging, gardening, resistance training, cycling and fit it in to your daily activity plan. A little can go a long way if done consistently. With all of the negativity abounding in the media and on the air waves, finding a simple solution to get a mental/emotional advantage to get the most out of your day, and your life seems paramount.