The mood-boosting benefits of exercise, for kids and adults
If the prospect of six-pack abs or weightloss won't get you into the gym, how about feelings of calmness or heightened feelings of energy? Light to moderate aerobic exercise can improve mood for two to four hours following the activity.
"These same positive benefits apply to children," said Indiana University psychologist Jack Raglin. "At the same time, it's becoming more and more challenging to find time for kids to have physical activity. Kids are overly scheduled -- parents have to work at finding avenues for activity."
Raglin, a professor in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, has conducted research examining overtraining syndrome, meditation and other issues involving mood and exercise. Below are more details about mood and exercise.
Aerobic v. anaerobic. People are more likely to experience the mood-boosting benefits after aerobic activities such as jogging, lap swimming or cycling, compared to activities such as strength training.
Taking it easy. Far from huffing and puffing, the benefits can be experienced after just 20 minutes of light or moderate activity, such as a slow jog.
A pass for the cheerful? People who are clinically depressed experience the most mood-boosting benefits but Raglin said people who generally already are relaxed, with low levels of depression or anxiety, can still experience the feelings of calmness, lowered levels of anxiety and less fatigue.
Hard workouts. Intense workouts can bring about elevated feelings of anxiety and other unpleasant feelings immediately following the activity, Raglin said, but within five to 10 minutes these feelings usually are replaced with the longer-lasting positive feelings.
More is not better. Intense exercise routines, Raglin said, can cause depression in otherwise healthy individuals. Overtraining or staleness syndrome is a particular concern for serious endurance athletes, such as swimmers or runners, with roughly 10 percent of these athletes experiencing the syndrome over the course of one year of training -- and this rate increases significantly after five years of training. Staleness is associated with a long list of symptoms that include medical illnesses, such as infectious disorders, and psychological disturbances, depression in particular, that are far more severe than typical daily stresses. Raglin's studies have seen increasing levels of staleness syndrome among middle school and high school athletes. "Exercise is a complex stimulus," he said.
While more studies are pointing to the mental health benefits of exercise, Raglin said little is known about why it can have this effect. He said there is no evidence that endorphins are behind it, despite popular belief. It could be a combination of factors, ranging from warmer body temperatures affecting the brain's metabolism to the fact that when people exercise, they're taking a break from the normal stresses of the day.
To read more articles from the Department of Kinesiology, visit http://newsinfo.iu.edu/cat/page/normal/356.html.