MOVE Your Way Through Stress

Photo: Luis Quintero 

It’s easy to think about how our mood affects our movement. Maybe you have a hard time sitting still when you are feeling anxious or you find it difficult to move at all when you are depressed? 

But let’s talk about the reverse- moving your body can also change your emotional state!

If you are like me you are probably skeptical. Can the way you move your body really impact how you are feeling? 

Yes, here’s how it works:

  • Movement Enhances Helpful Mood Regulating Chemicals:  Moderate exercise tends to enhance chemicals in the body such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, chemicals that are correlated with increased mood and a decreased stress response. 
  • Movement Increases Blood Circulation: As you move your body it impacts your blood circulation and therefore oxygenation. Increased blood circulation has been linked to better cognitive functioning and can elevate mood. It has also been shown to prevent the effects of aging. 
  • Movement Helps Your Stress Response: Aerobic exercise has been shown to help your fight/flight response to be less reactive. While moving, your body gets used to coping with physiological changes such as a rapid heartbeat and builds tolerance for it. Therefore, when your body goes into the fight/flight response due to fear and anxiety, it is better able to cope.

This is in no way an exhaustive list, yet it does provide some evidence for the research behind how moving your body can change your mood. 

Some good news: 

You don’t have do a crazy hard workout for movement to help!

As little as 20 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (maybe walking during a phone call) has been shown to have positive effects on mood. 

So… if you have been stressed, anxious, or depressed lately, try incorporating movement into your day. You may find yourself feeling much better after!

If you are interested in combining movement and therapy, Restoration Hope is excited to offer movement based interventions. Reach out to info@restorationhopecounseling.com for more information. 

Photo: Peter Conlan

References & where to go for more information:

Blumenthal, J. A., Fredrikson, M., Kuhn, C. M., Ulmer, R. L., Walsh-Riddle, M., & Appelbaum, M. (1990). Aerobic exercise reduces levels of cardiovascular and sympathoadrenal responses to mental stress in subjects without prior evidence of myocardial ischemia. The American journal of cardiology, 65(1), 93-98.

Deslandes, A., Moraes, H., Ferreira, C., Veiga, H., Silveira, H., Mouta, R., … & Laks, J. (2009). Exercise and mental health: many reasons to move. Neuropsychobiology, 59(4), 191-198.

Taylor, C. B., Sallis, J. F., & Needle, R. (1985). The relation of physical activity and exercise to mental health. Public health reports, 100(2), 195.

Zhu, N., Jacobs, D. R., Jr, Schreiner, P. J., Yaffe, K., Bryan, N., Launer, L. J., Whitmer, R. A., Sidney, S., Demerath, E., Thomas, W., Bouchard, C., He, K., Reis, J., & Sternfeld, B. (2014). Cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive function in middle age: the CARDIA study. Neurology, 82(15), 1339–1346.

Leave a Reply