Feel-good afterglow from a workout may last far beyond the hour or so that has been previously assumed, says research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine.
"Moderate intensity aerobic exercise improves mood immediately and those improvements can last up to 12 hours," concludes study lead researcher Jeremy Sibold, Ed.D., at the University of Vermont, Burlington.
Other studies have found a mood-boosting effect to exercise. But the other research had not tracked the effect for as long as Dr. Sibold and his team did.
"This is one of the few studies that actually looked at a much longer window [of] 24 hours," he says. "The question I was interested in was, 'How long does that feel-good effect, that improvement, last?'"
To find out, Dr. Sibold and co-author Kathy Berg randomly assigned 48 healthy men and women to a control group that did not exercise, or to a group that did exercise.
The study participants ranged from ages 18 to 25. At the start of the study, all participants completed a standard survey of mood. Next, the exercise group rode on a stationary bike for 20 minutes at moderate intensity.
All participants then repeated the mood survey at one, two, four, eight, 12, and 24 hours after exercising.
The mood of the exercisers was better than that of the sedentary group immediately after the workout and for up to 12 hours later.
"This goes a long way to show that even moderate aerobic exercise has the potential to mitigate the daily stress that results in your mood being disturbed," he says.
Men and women seemed to benefit equally, and the fitness level of the participant did not seem to matter.
Experts believe that exercise's mood-boosting effects are partly due to a rise in levels of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, such as endorphins, in the brain.
The findings point yet again to exercise as a cheap, easily accessible tool against blue moods and even depression, says Dr. Sibold. "I think that's really important for the general public to know - depression is so widespread."
The "dose" of exercise needed to lift mood is not a lot, notes Dr. Sibold. "We aren't talking about a Lance Armstrong workout." A few minutes a day could pay off, he says.
He urges people to pick an activity they enjoy. Gardening, walking, square dancing, or other similar activities can be effective.
The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines support the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
That can be done five days a week in 30-minute sessions, experts suggest.
The new findings, according to Dr. Sibold, should improve the ability of health care professionals to prescribe exercise as a treatment for mood enhancement in healthy people.
The study results came as no surprise to Jennifer Mears, an exercise physiologist and corporate fitness specialist in Colorado Springs, Colo. "There are a lot of other research studies and information out there that would back that up," she said of Dr. Sibold's findings.
What is different and noteworthy about his study, she agrees, is the longer follow-up time.
Always consult your physician for more information.
To be physically fit you do not have to exercise hard for long periods of time.
Experts agree that physical activity does not have to be vigorous, and recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily, or on most days of the week.
To achieve and maintain physical and cardiovascular fitness, orthopaedists advise following a balanced fitness program.
If you have an existing medical condition, be sure to consult your physician before starting an exercise program.
Choose an activity that you will enjoy. You are more likely to continue exercising if you are doing something that you like.
In the beginning, follow a program that includes moderate, not vigorous, physical activity.
Start off with 30 minutes a day, and allow for some variety in your fitness routine - not only in the fitness activity that you choose, but in the time and setting - as to eliminate boredom with any one activity or location.
Be sure to start off any work-out/exercise session with proper warm-up and stretching exercises. This will help to avoid post-exercise soreness or injury.
Wear the proper attire when exercising, including shoes with the proper support for the activity.
Also, be sure to dress appropriately for the weather.
Just as warming-up and stretching is important as you begin each exercise session, so is a cool down period at the end of your exercise activity.
This should include at least several minutes of stretching or walking.
Lack of physical activity has clearly been shown to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Less active, less fit persons have a 30 to 50 percent greater risk of developing high blood pressure.
Although no direct link exists between regular exercise and stroke, it is known that exercise reduces the risk of other health problems, such as heart disease, which can contribute to stroke.
The Healthy People 2010 report, produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, found that physically inactive people are twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease (CHD) as people who do regular physical exercises. Physical inactivity, which is almost as high of a risk factor as cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol, is far more prevalent than any other risk factor.
Always consult your physician for more information.
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