The Mind Body Connection

by Lizzy Sebuck

Through our research this week, we have concluded that there is a clear correlation between the health of the body to the physical condition of the mind. In the research we reviewed, we found that preservation of the body through exercise can result in a better preserved mind with age.

It turns out that working out not only adds brawn to your brain, but could be cloud nine for your noodle as well. In our research today, we’ve found that working out can actually make you a happier person! The mind- body connection works both ways: the health of the body can have an affect on the mind, as well as the condition of the mind having an affect on the body. Santa may be a jolly ole’ soul… but this research says a more fit and in-shape Santa would have an even better attitude if he would just put down those milk and cookies.


Feeling down? A little blue? Seasonal depression getting the best of ya? It’s okay, we don’t have to hug it out or anything, we have to work it out. Here’s the deal with working out: you do good things for your body, your body does good things for you. There are a few theories as to why exercise has such a positive affect on the human mind.

When you throw on your Richard Simmons sparkly shorts and jazzercise around your living room, your body releases an opiate called endorphins. Edorphins act as neurotransmitters; they transfer signals from cell to cell in the body. What endorphins say to your  nerve cells is something along the lines of “WOO-HOO!!!” (Think kid in a candy store type feelings). Your body releases endorphins during times of stress, pain, danger, excitement, and even in sex.  During a vigorous work-out, your brain releases endorphins to your nerve cells, which gives your body an overall feel-good sensation.

One source declares that exercise increases frontal lobe function as well as the activity of the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain that regulates emotion. While researchers are not quite sure why this happens, they’re happy about it anyways (literally).

In a study of mammals, researchers found that when exercise increased, so did levels of serotonin, dopamine ,and norepinephrine in the brain. Anti-depressants regulate the serotonin levels in the body, with the goal of making patients feel better. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that lives in the precortex of the brain. Dopamine affects cognition and behavior, and is associated with feelings of sexual gratification.

Listen, no one here is saying intercourse isn’t a great workout method. It will probably better your mood because of the visual pleasures, but pumping iron and hitting the gym have the same effects (come on, you can stop winking at your partner now). Norepinephrine is also referred to as noraddrenaline , so you can assume the affects this hormone can have on your body. Norepinephrine is a hormone relative to stress, when released increases heart rate and blood pressure. Norepinephrine has a very similar affect to adrenaline, as it gives humans a rush of sensations.

Dr. Blumenthal of Duke University did a little research on the actual chemical effects on the human mind as a result of regular exercise. In this study surveying 156 men and women, the subjects either received the anti-depressant Zoloft, or were given an exercise routine to follow.

“The data on exercise and mood have gotten even stronger.  One of the most telling studies was reported recently, in which an exercise program was equal in benefit to routine doses of Zoloft, a common antidepressant.The Zoloft and the exercise program were tapered off after 4 months; then the researchers tested the participants again, about 8 months after the treatments were stopped.  At that point, the exercise group was doing better than the group that had received Zoloft. Exercise appears to affect brain chemistry and brain cells in much the same way, perhaps exactly the same way, as antidepressant medications”

This data found that in older adults, exercise could be JUST AS effective in the treatment of depression as the highly prescribed anti depressant drug Zoloft! This research shows that you don’t have to pop pills to be happy- you could instead pump iron!
Exercise can also simply give a person peace of mind. Even the most stressed person in the world has to put their obnoxious boss or nagging mother-in-law out of mind to fully commit themselves in a Zumba routine. Exercise forces a person to put their worries out-of-mind for the time being, which can act as a type of therapy for some. Working out gives people confidence through changing their body shape or through pride by getting themselves to go to the gym at all. Regular athletic activity can , over time, reduce or completely eliminate anxiety issues. It is clear that taking care of your body can have a significant influence on the emotional state of your mind.


The mind- body connection works in both ways. When your body is feeling bad, you can work out to make your body and mind feel good again. When your mind is going through a trial of ‘the blues’ and you don’t take action, your body can take a toll. Worry and tension in life is inevitable , so when unexpected stressors like losing your job, or even a break up can bring on some pretty strong emotions. Your emotions can have a very damaging affect on your body dependant on the severity. According to a source, a bad mood can give a person back pain, chest pain, headaches, high blood pressure, and (here’s the kicker) sexual problems.

Our source also says that your mental health can have an influence on your overall health as well, as your immune system may suffer as a result of personal neglect.

“Poor emotional health can weaken your body’s immune system, making you more likely to get colds and other infections during emotionally difficult times. Also, when you are feeling stressed, anxious or upset, you may not take care of your health as well as you should. You may not feel like exercising, eating nutritious foods or taking medicine that your doctor prescribes. Abuse of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs may also be a sign of poor emotional health.”

An unhealthy mind can mean a pained body. Strong, negative emotions can not only leave the mind in turmoil, but a laundry list of physical ailments can arise as a result of depression.

Get it? It’s Brain from Pinky and the Brain… and he’s sad

It is obvious that working out has positive affects on the health of your body. In research we found earlier this week, we found that working out can aid your brain health and make you smarter. Today we’ve discovered that exercise can also increase your mood by giving your brain a boost of happy juice! So dig through your mom’s collection of Body Electric work out tapes, pump the speakers with Kenny Loggin’s Footloose, and get up in the gym workin’ on your fitness, Fergalicious, cause it turns out pumping that iron can do more for you than land you that date with the chick on the elliptical.

How does Exercise Improve Mental Health?
Depression and anxiety: exercise eases symptoms
Mind/Body Connection: How your emotions affect your health
Effects of exercise training on older patients with major depression
Exercise and mood: not the usual rap


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