The story of exercise and endorphins

When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.

A very large body of scientific evidence shows that people who exercise regularly exhibit a positive mood and lower rates of depression.

There are a number of mechanisms that explain the fact that exercise boosts your mood, and one of these is endorphins. When interacting with the receptors in your brain, endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.

This effect is called "runner's high," and it is accompanied by a positive approach to everyday life. Thus, exercise increases your overall health and your sense of wellbeing, which puts more pep in your step every day.

Endorphins act as a sort of analgesic, diminishing the perception of pain and as a sedative, producing a feeling of calmness. Regular exercise has multiple positive effects that are been proven to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Ward off anxiety and feelings of depression
  • Boost self-esteem
  • Improve sleep

Now that you know that exercise is really effective not only for your body, but also for your mental state, you might think that you're too busy and stressed to fit it into your routine. However, there is good news when it comes to exercise and stress. It is important to know that virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to strength training and from cycling to yoga, can act as a stress reliever.

Even if you are not an athlete or if you are out of shape, you can surely find a form of exercise that fits into your daily routine.

Exercise is meditation in motion, and to experience this effect, you do not necessarily have to do tai chi, yoga or other similar activities generally called “body and mind activities.” The typical activities you can find in a wellness center, or even outdoor activities, fit perfectly with the purpose of stress reduction.

After a group cycling class, a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you'll often find that you've forgotten the day's irritations and have concentrated only on your body's movements. As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything that you do.

As we have seen, it appears that any form of exercise can help, but moderate intensity is recommended.

For most people, it is okay to start an exercise program without checking with a health care provider. However, if you have not exercised in a while, are over age 50, or have a medical condition such as diabetes or heart disease, contact your health care provider before starting an exercise program.

How often should you exercise to get all the benefits of endorphin release?

  • Try to exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week—four or five times a week is even better.
  • Take it easy if you are just beginning; start exercising for 20 minutes, then you can build up to 30 minutes.

Some tips for getting started with exercise:

  • Plan a routine that is easy to follow and maintain. When you start feeling comfortable with your routine, then you can start varying your exercise times and activities.
  • Stick with it; if you exercise regularly, it will soon become part of your lifestyle and can help reduce your depression.
  • Choose an activity you enjoy; exercising should be fun.
  • Put your exercise routine into your schedule.

Exercise is a sort of meditation in motion. It improves your mood, increases self-confidence, and lowers the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All this can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.