I was fascinated to learn how exercise helps people deal with stress and anxiety. It’s well known that exercise has a positive impact on our mood and mental health but researchers are now discovering why that is.  I hope this inspires you to move more by understanding how it works.

I found during the pandemic that doing yoga a few times a week had a strong impact on my mental wellbeing. I’d previously found yoga “boring” and if I’m honest it didn’t feel like “real exercise”. I believed you needed to be out of breath and breaking a sweat to benefit. But it turns out I was wrong.

After being more motivated to do my work and just feeling generally happier, I learned that exercise releases endorphins and other neurochemicals associated with happiness and pleasure. Now scientists have discovered that myokines are key players.

The Mood-Boosting Power of Myokines

When we engage in physical activity, our muscles produce myokines, chains of amino acids that cross the blood-brain barrier. These stimulate activity in and between the neurons in the brain making it function better.

Myokines have earned the nickname “hope molecules” as they enhance mental resilience to stress and boost motivation. The key to releasing these molecules is through any muscle contraction – you don’t have to run marathons! Basically your muscles manufacture anti-depressants!

It’s great to know that any movement can improve your mood and help you with better concentration and productivity. This is why I love sharing some simple, easy movements in the wellbeing sessions that I run.  Even staying seated and stretching a few muscles can have a beneficial impact on our minds.  But walking or other exercise will be even more powerful.

Three tips to help you incorporate more movement into your life

  1. Find an Activity You Enjoy

Whether it’s dancing, walking, swimming, or yoga, choose an activity that you find enjoyable. This will make it easier to turn exercise into a regular part of your life. Enjoyment increases motivation, ensuring you get your regular dose of those mood-boosting myokines.

  1. Start Small and Build Gradually

If you’re new to exercise or returning after a break, start with small, manageable goals. Begin with a 10-minute walk or a short session of stretching. Gradually increase the duration and intensity as you become more comfortable. Consistency is key and remember that even small amounts of movement can trigger the release of myokines.

  1. Incorporate Movement into Daily Activities

Look for opportunities to add more movement to your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the lift, walk or bike to nearby destinations, or do a quick set of exercises during breaks at work.

Understanding the role of myokines in boosting mood gives me more motivation to get moving. I hope this has encouraged you to think about incorporating regular movement into your life to improve your mental well-being as well as your physical health. So, why not get moving? Your brain will thank you.

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