Turn the frown upside down...

Turn that frown upside down...............

One day last week i was having a stinker of a day, so instead of stewing in my own self pity and being miserable until i went to bed with the ‘tomorrow is another day’ cliché ringing in my ears. I decided to go for a run, and after 45 mins i felt great, ‘watch out world’ was my attitude on my return. It got me thinking, so i went away, did some research and found some great facts and info.

The psychological or mental benefits of regular exercise can be as important and visible as the physical ones. Some benefits, such as better self-esteem, come as an indirect result of exercise. These physiological effects of exercise are sometimes more beneficial than the physical ones, especially as nearly everyone’s day to day lives are full of stress and mental fatigue.

Others are a direct consequence of chemical activity triggered by physical exertion - for example I have done some research and discovered, people suffering from depression or anxiety are often ‘prescribed’ exercise. Brain chemicals released during exercise, such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and endorphins, are known to have strong effects on mood, helping reduce feelings of anxiety, stress and depression, while also helping to strengthen your immune system.

Twenty different types of endorphin have been discovered in the nervous system, and the beta-endorphins secreted during exercise have the most powerful effect. Sometimes described as 'runners high', the release of beta-endorphins reduces pain (the reason why running becomes easier after about 20 minutes) and stimulates feelings of euphoria - which is why so many people feel invigorated and enthusiastic after exercise.

Other psychological side effects of exercise include:

•    Improved self-esteem and greater sense of self-reliance and self-confidence
•    Improved mental alertness, perception and information processing
•    Increased perceptions of acceptance by others
•    Decreased overall feelings of stress and tension
•    Reduced frustration with daily problems, and a more constructive response to disappointments and failures

These psychological benefits can be just as important as the more obvious physical ones; most of us exercise in the first place because we are unhappy about something, whether it is that spare tyre, worries about general health, or just being sick of feeling tired and unfit.

If you are feeling like a couch potato, or you are finding stress and worry is becoming a problem, get out there and exercise! The hardest part by far is that initial step, when it can feel like exercise is the last thing in the world that will cheer you up: try to remember that exercise is one of the very best ways do do just that.

For other tips and advice direct your fitness/nutrition based questions to tom.horton@cadburyhouse.com.


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