Within this article I will highlight some information I have stumbled across through my studies that evaluates the relationship between exercise, physical activity and Emotional Well-being.
Firstly… What is emotional well-being?
There are many different answers to this question and most of these answers are down to personal opinion of a specific individual as everyone is different. Some more common answers are:
- A greater amount of positive affect than negative affect
- Favorable thoughts such as satisfaction with life
- Reduction of negative emotions
- Increase in positive emotions
- Greater self-confidence and self-esteem
- Improved cognitive function
This list is by no means exhaustive but just a few of the definitions I have stumbled across within my reading.
People often confuse ‘Emotion’ with ‘Mood’ but these are very different indeed.
Emotion is an immediate response to specific stimulus that requires some level of cognitive input. For example, the personal trainer adds additional poundage for the next attempted bench press exercise; the client says, “no way!”
Mood is a transient subjective state of feeling with a cognitive basis. For example, “I have more energy from a moderately intense workout”
Moods usually imply a longer course of time, whereas emotions are short-lived. Causes of emotion can usually be identified, whereas moods come and go with sometimes unidentifiable causes. Emotions are usually more intense and variable than moods.
From my research, many studies and articles I have come across continue to support a growing literature suggesting that exercise, physical activity and physical-activity interventions have beneficial effects across several physical and mental-health outcomes. Generally, participants engaging in regular physical activity display more desirable health outcomes across a variety of physical conditions. Similarly, participants in randomised clinical trials of physical-activity interventions show better health outcomes, including better general and health-related quality of life, better functional capacity and better mood states. Most work suggests that exercise and physical activity are associated with better quality of life and health outcomes.
How much exercise is enough and how intense should the exercise be? The minimum and maximum levels of exercise intensity and duration needed to produce desired response are still unclear. What we do know is that exercise seems to increase positive mood states, reduce negative mood states and moderate amounts of exercise usually energize the exerciser. From a more personal viewpoint, do you find that taking a 10-minute brisk walk gives you more energy? Try this experiment one evening when you’re feeling fatigued. 9 times out of 10 the answer will be yes. This is because of the chemical reactions that take place within the body that affect your mood. These mood elevating chemicals will improve your emotional well being leaving you feeling happy and energized.
However, on the flip side to this, even though people feel better after exercising, how they feel during exercise may be part of the reason why many don’t exercise at all. For example, A person is not likely to continue an activity that isn’t fun and the affect gets progressively more negative as exercise intensity increases. Moderate-intensity exercise results in more positive affective change, but individual differences need to be considered. This of course, excludes people who are conditioned to intense exercise. This is because they have developed a physiological dependence to exercise.
The Physiological factors in exercise dependence are usually related to Endorphin Hypothesis. The endorphin hypothesis proposes that the effects of acute exercise on psychological well-being, in particular ‘euphoria’, is caused by the release and subsequent binding of endogenous opiods, these being -endorphins to receptor sites in the brain. The endorphin hypothesis originated from early research on rat brain tissue that revealed significant increases in opiate receptor occupancy after the rats had been forced to exercise.
In simple terms, this means that there is an actual physiological dependence on the chemical released during exercise. The release of endorphins, which the body craves, leads to more exercise, which leads to more endorphins being released. This is when the dependence is then developed. The effect of training is a decrease in sympathetic nervous system output, so an increase in fitness can potentially result in a state of lethargy, fatigue, and decreased arousal. This is then the reason that people continue to exercise because they need the feel good factor that exercise produces.
Overall, regular moderate exercise is hugely beneficial to an individuals emotional well being and can create many additional health benefits so next time you feel down or depressed, take some time out to relive some stress and use exercise as part of your offloading process.
Thanks again for reading.
Stephen Greensted :)