The majority of us have been experiencing more anxiety over the last year for a variety of reasons. We know exercise can help, and you’ve probably felt the effect of less anxiety after exercise, but did you know why?
The relationship between exercise and anxiety is multi-factorial and includes both psychological and physiological components.
Psychological benefits include distraction, enhanced self-efficacy, mastery, and the benefits of regular social interaction when you exercise with others.
Physiological benefits include improved levels of several neurotransmitters that affect anxiety including serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and endorphins.
The first thing you might think of when it comes to exercise and anxiety is what is commonly known as “runner’s high”.
This describes the release of endorphins that your brain experiences when you physically exert yourself. Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter or chemical messenger. They help relieve pain and stress.
Endorphins are only one of many neurotransmitters released when you exercise. Physical activity also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These brain chemicals play an important part in regulating your mood.
For example, regular exercise can positively impact serotonin levels in your brain. Raising your levels of serotonin boosts your mood and overall sense of well-being. It can also help improve your appetite and sleep cycles, which are often negatively affected by anxiety and depression.⠀
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