Exercise can help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol levels, but it’s also a great mood booster, according to Mladen Golubic, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Lifestyle Medicine. It works in two ways:
Heads off depression. When exercising, your brain produces feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins—these help alleviate stress.
Treats depression. Just four weeks of an exercise routine can lift depression, according to studies by The American Psychiatric Association.
“The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong,” says Michael Otto, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Boston University. “Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”
How to Get the Mood Boost
Find activities you’ll love. Start walking 30 minutes a day. If that gets boring, try a new class at the gym—the social interaction in a fitness class also can help depression. If you want a bigger challenge, ask a doctor if high-intensity intervals (doing an activity at alternating speeds) might work for you.
Any level of exercise will help. You don’t have to exercise the recommended 135 minutes a week to feel benefits. Even a small amount of physical activity can reduce depression.
Not sure where to start? Try out one of the most stunning fall hikes in America!