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Power of Exercise

When one hears the term “exercise” words such as weights, treadmill, or elliptical may come to mind. Many had once thought that exercise was simply a way to stay in shape or to lose weight. However, studies began to show that there’s more to exercise than just using machines and being fit. A study conducted by the CDC reports that 33% of people don’t get enough sleep1 and also report that one in six people will experience depression in their life.2 Exercise is seen to improve these conditions and countless more.

According to a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, meeting the recommended 150 minutes of exercise in a week improved sleep quality by 65%.3 Exercise is found to release chemicals called endorphins in the brain4 which improve mood and keep people awake. As the day continues, endorphin levels slowly lower preparing the body for sleep. The great thing about the effect of exercise on sleep is it will not take months to notice results. Being consistent and finding an activity one enjoys produces results quickly.

Also, exercise can positively change brain function. Research shows that over time, low-intensity exercise promotes nerve cells growth and connections.5 These connections improve brain pathways affected by depression.5 Similar to sleeping, endorphins improve depression. The popular term “runner’s high” applies in this case. A runner’s high is when one feels so in tuned to an activity it feels as though they could continue forever. The good news: any exercise can produce a runner’s high, not just running! It simply depends on the person and what they enjoy doing. As one could guess, the change in brain function and endorphins is seen to significantly help relieve depression.5

If exercise holds the power to alter the brain, what else is it capable of? Regular exercise can decrease blood pressure6, triglyceride levels, and heart rate. It also lowers the risk of many cancers, falls, fractures, heart diseases, and type 2 diabetes.6 Not to mention physical activity boosts overall mood. Finding a type of exercise that captivates someone holds much more power than anyone has ever thought.

 


1. 1 in 3 Adults Don’t Get Enough Sleep. CDC Newsroom. (2016, February 18). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html.

2. Mental Health Conditions: Depression and Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/depression-anxiety.html.

3. Physical Activity Impacts Overall Quality of Sleep. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/study-physical-activity-impacts-overall-quality-sleep.

4. Exercising for Better Sleep. Retrieved May 30, 2019, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep.

5. Exercise is an All-Natural Treatment to Fight Depression. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved April 30, 2019 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression.

6. Benefits of Exercise. Retrieved November 6, 2018 from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/

 

Pauline Carroll

Pauline Carroll

B.S. Exercise Science