Working out does my body good, but it also does wonders for my brain.
Like most people, I occasionally find myself feeling down and unmotivated; some days it’s for no apparent reason. It’s just part of the normal ups-and-downs of life.
When I lose my motivation, or I feel the blues, I take my precious cargo (my brain!) to the gym. Exercise turns on my warrior gene, but in a good way. At the gym I am fighting to feel better, to get motivated, and tackle another day.
A good workout helps to saturate our neurons with feel-good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. By some measures, exercise also taps into the natural high of our internal cannabinoids. It can also purge the brain of proteins that lead to feelings of depression.
Depression is different than just run-of-the-mill blues – it’s sticks around like an unshakable heaviness, and activities that used to make you happy no longer bring you joy. Depression robs the brain of its ability to deliver pleasurable feelings and drains you of motivation, and even hope.
If you’re depressed, talk therapy can help – and your doctor may suggest medication as well. But don’t stop there. Depression is best treated with a holistic approach that tends to every facet of your health - and yes, that includes exercise.
In fact, some experts call exercise the “miracle prescription.” It’s so effective at managing depression that researchers recommend that psychiatrists prescribe it alongside other treatments.
To get started, pick an activity you generally enjoy – this can help take the effort out of exercise when you’re unmotivated, and it will help you stick with it. Start slow: Try 20 minutes just 3 times a week.
When you’re comfortable, increase up to 30 minutes, 5 days a week. And you may want to try interval training – a mix of regular paced activity with bouts of higher intensity efforts. These types of workouts have been shown to induce the euphoric feeling of the “runners high.”
To get the most brain benefits from exercise, be consistent. With every workout, you’re moving toward wellness.