A neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood, sleep, appetite, blood clotting, and intestinal function.
Managing Health Through Exercise
Exercise is any activity that requires physical effort and is carried out with the goal of sustaining or improving physical fitness. Exercise has many benefits for the body and mind: protecting against injury, improving cardiovascular function, honing athletic skills, managing weight, boosting the immune system, counteracting depression, and elevating mood.
Types of Exercise
Physical exercise can be classified into three primary types based on the overall effect the exercise has on the body: flexibility, aerobic, and anaerobic. Flexibility exercise challenges the body's range of motion through stretching, bending, and balance movements. Aerobic exercise increases cardiovascular capacity through activities like running, biking, or swimming. Anaerobic exercise improves muscle strength through weight training. Exercises can also be classified as dynamic when they involve active or flowing movement (like running or yoga), or static when they involve isolated poses or movements (such as weight-lifting or holding stretches). Certain exercises may have aerobic, anaerobic, and flexibility benefits. Calesthenics,
for example, which includes rhythmic gross motor movements and strengthening exercise
that use only body weight as resistance (e.g., jumping jacks, push ups,
sit ups, etc.) increase aerobic and muscular conditioning, agility, and coordination.
All of these types of physical exercise contribute to physical fitness. Body weight and composition is maintained by a combination of the food we consume and the energy we expend throughout the day. Physical activity increases the amount of energy the body needs to function. The more exercise a person does, the more energy the body uses. As a result, fewer calories are stored in the form of fat, and this translates into either weight maintenance or weight loss. Along with healthy body weight, exercise has other physical health benefits. It increases cardiovascular functioning, which reduces the risk for certain diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Exercise can also positively affect bone density, muscle strength, and joint mobility. Strong bodies have reduced surgical risks, better immune function, and lower susceptibility to illness and infection.
Exercise also serves as stress relief, which has both physiological and psychological benefits. Research shows that exercise reduces cortisol levels, a hormone that is released when the body is stressed and has been shown to have negative health consequences (including heart disease and depression) when chronically elevated. The brain also benefits from physical exercise through increases in blood flow and oxygen that promote cell generation and proliferation. In general, a steady practice of exercise keeps the body strong and functioning properly.
Effects of Exercise on the Mind
Research shows that physical exercise also plays an important role in promoting mental health. Exercise increases levels of endorphins in the body. These naturally occurring opioids are the body's own pain killers. They work in conjunction with neurotransmitters to induce relief, happiness, or even euphoria when the body is in pain or overexerted. Marathon runners will often experience what is called a "runner's high;" this can allow them to continue running despite the physical exhaustion they might feel. Research shows that exercise elevates levels of serotonin and endorphins and that these elevations remain for several days after exercise, contributing to a lasting improvement in mood. Exercise has been proven to have positive effects on people suffering from depression, and promotes positive levels of self-esteem. This phenomenon is due not only to the chemicals involved, but also results from the positive body-image and feeling of competence that come with accomplishing a fitness goal.