Physical Activity: Good for Your Head as Well as Your Heart!


By Holly Glaubitz, Health Educator   


As our Minnesota winter starts to pick up speed, the reduced hours of daylight can adversely affect our mood and energy levels. While most of us want to hibernate during the winter months, now is an ideal time to start an activity program or continue with our current routine. That's because physical activity is good for your head as well as your heart!


It's true - in addition to helping you manage your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure, physical activity can help you relieve depression and reduce stress. It can be both exhilarating and relaxing. You may have heard this referred to as a "runners high" - that feeling of optimism and relaxation that exercisers describe at the end of a good workout.


Why activity is a stress-buster

One explanation for the stress-relieving effects that physical activity has on your brain is that it reduces the level of your body's stress hormone, called cortisol. At the same time, it stimulates the production of endorphins, which are your body's natural pain reliever and mood elevator. It's those endorphins that are responsible for the "runners high."


Some is better than none, and more is better than some!

Almost any type of activity can help you improve your health and your mood. For some, a 20-minute stroll will help provide some stress-relieving benefits. Others may prefer a more vigorous workout that can burn away stress as well as calories.


It's always important to remember the guidelines for physical activity: 1) Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week on a regular basis, and 2) the "best" activity is the one you will actually do. Find something you enjoy and that you'll stick with!