Sweat the Pain Away – Exercise and Endorphins

Last week for Wellness Thursday I returned to my roots; exercise hard, and regularly, and find all aspects of your life get better, with the corollary; stop doing so and watch all aspects of your life get worse.

One thing I’ve noticed in particular, a good, hard workout improves your mood. This has been particularly important for me, as I have a tendency to dark emotions; anxiety, fear, anger, melancholy, even depression.

Exercise releases endorphins, hormone which interact with our brains to reduce feelings of pain, and to create a positive feeling throughout the body. It’s colloquially known as “runner’s high” and is a feeling of euphoria, similar to the feeling created by morphine.

Yes, during exercise your body releases a chemical that makes you feel similarly to the way morphine does. It just so happens that “endorphin” is a contraction of “endogenous morphine” and they are naturally released opioids.

One of the reasons people get trapped into opioid addiction is the need to feel better. They fall into a dark hole, and the drugs make them feel (temporarily) better.

Well, those naturally occurring opioids, endorphins, also make you feel better, without the risk of addiction. So, in addition to the general health benefits of exercise, you get the added emotional benefits of:

  • Reduced stress
  • Prevention of anxiety and depression
  • Boosted self-esteem

Best of all, it doesn’t really have to be super intense. That’s the way I like to exercise (try a Bikram Yoga, or Inferno Hot Pilates class to see how hard I like to exercise) but you don’t have to. You can:

  • Take a walk
  • Go for a swim
  • Work in your garden
  • Ride your bike
  • Play a round of whack-ball (that’s golf)

It’s not what you do, it’s not even how hard you do it, it’s THAT you do it. Get up and get moving, you’ll feel better for it.