Move to improve your mood
When you’re feeling irritated, frustrated or cranky, you might be inclined to skip the exercise you had planned – but a better strategy is to pull your trainers on and get moving. A single session of physical activity is sufficient to trigger the release of feel-good chemicals by your brain, including endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. As a result, you’ll probably notice you feel better after you’ve done something active, compared to when you started.
Research has confirmed it, with a UK study finding that when people squeeze in some exercise midway through their work day, they return to their desks in a better mood afterwards. You can find lunchtime exercise inspiration, here. Other research shows that a single session of exercise can lift your mood for up to 12 hours, post workout.
The best exercise to do when you want to give your mood a lift? The answer is whatever you enjoy doing, but you could consider varieties that involve rhythmic movements, and that have some flow or momentum to them. You might find that these are more soothing than stop-start workouts. Think swimming, yoga, walking or tai chi.
Interestingly, while physical activity does have immediate benefits for your mood, it also pays off in the long term, too. In 2017 a landmark study led by the Black Dog Institute found that regular exercise can protect against depression, while other studies have shown that over time, exercise can actually reorganise the brain to make it more resilient to stress.
How much exercise do you need to do to enjoy the sustained mental-health benefits physical activity can deliver? Different studies ‘prescribe’ various amounts, but as little as 35 minutes a day, or roughly two-and-a-half hours a week, has been shown to be effective.