How much and what type of exercise is helpful for the brain and general health? I feel happier when I exercise. How does exercise improve the mood?
A 30- to 45-minute daily routine of aerobic exercise, such as running, walking, swimming, biking or elliptical training is recommended for most people. At least 10 minutes of aerobic activity with 50 percent to 85 percent of the maximum heart rate is needed for a benefit.
In consultation with a trainer, resistance training (lifting weights, push-ups, sit-ups, resistance bands or heavy gardening) may be added three days a week for 30 to 45 minutes.
One year of moderate exercise may increase the size of the brain’s hippocampus (memory center) in older adults, according to a study conducted at two universities.
Exercise may improve the mood by 1) elevating endorphins; 2) normalizing the brain chemistry and increasing levels of the brain’s natural fertilizer (brain-derived neurotrophic factor); 3) reducing the body’s natural stress hormone (cortisol); 4) elevating body temperature to a beneficial degree; 5) improving self-esteem; 6) distracting from stresses; and 7) providing a relaxed state after completed.
Also, there is a strong relationship between the volume of fat tissue and the amount of inflammatory hormones released. Reducing weight decreases the inflammatory burden on the body that contributes to many illnesses, including mood disturbances.
By developing muscle mass, people whose exercise includes resistance training (which increases muscle mass), are not just getting stronger and burning calories, but they may also be facilitating the release of hormones that could counteract obesity’s inflammatory effects.