The 2016 NEW YOU: Double Benefit
Best Form of Exercise to Improve Your Mood?

Exercise is a well-known natural mood booster. You’ve heard of a “runner’s high”? This refers to the euphoric feeling many people get after a challenging run … and research has confirmed that, indeed, endorphins — your brain’s feel-good, pain-relieving chemicals — are produced during running.

Yoga increases levels of a brain chemical that helps lower anxiety and improve mood.

What’s more, those endorphins attach to areas of your brain associated with emotions, including the intense, positive emotions experienced during love affairs. So the runner’s high is not just a myth … it’s a very real mood boost that runners and other active exercisers get to experience.

But as intense as a runner’s high can be, it may pale in comparison to the mood boost offered by another type of exercise … yoga.

Yoga May Boost Your Mood Better Than Any Other Type of Exercise

A new study has revealed that yoga increases the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain. GABA helps to regulate nerve activity and low levels of it are linked to mood and anxiety disorders. Drugs that increase GABA activity are used to treat anxiety and improve mood … and it appears yoga may help to increase GABA activity, offering potential antidepressant benefits, naturally.

In fact, yoga was found to boost mood better than walking and other forms of exercise.

“This is important work that establishes some objective bases for the effects that highly trained practitioners of yoga therapy throughout the world see on a daily basis …,” Kim A. Jobst, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, told Science Daily.

What Other Benefits Does Yoga Have to Offer?

While many are initially drawn to yoga as a way to relieve stress or get in shape, it also offers a host of other benefits through its stretching, meditation and various postures.

Overall benefits to the mind and body that are often reported include pain reduction, increased flexibility, posture and strength, improvements in mood and well-being, better sleep, increased energy and more.

Yoga has even been found to benefit certain health conditions such as cancer, depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia because it may improve your sleep, fatigue and mood. It can also reduce heart rate and blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While all types of yoga offer mind-body benefits, certain types are also used to help you find your inner tranquility and strength, and to promote spiritual growth and self-awareness.

Combining Yoga With Other Forms of Mind-Body Exercises for Maximum Effect

For best results, combine yoga with other forms of exercise, like aerobics, strength-training, and more, to get all the benefits exercise has to offer.

Yoga is a phenomenal way to experience the “high” that comes from exercise, but it shouldn’t be your sole form of physical activity. Ideally you need a mix of exercises including aerobics, strength-training and stretching.

And no matter what form you do, remember that ALL exercise is beneficial for your mood. Exercise is a natural way to increase serotonin levels. Studies have shown that one hour of aerobic exercise has the same uplifting effects as 2.5 hours of indoor light therapy, which is as effective as antidepressant drugs in treating SAD and other depressive disorders.

Regular exercise is also a phenomenal way to relieve the symptoms of all types of depression, including seasonal depression. As TIME magazine recently reported:

“Molecular biologists and neurologists have begun to show that exercise may alter brain chemistry in much the same way that antidepressant drugs do — regulating the key neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine.

At the University of Georgia, neuroscience professor Philip Holmes and his colleagues have shown that over the course of several weeks, exercise can switch on certain genes that increase the brain’s level of galanin, a peptide neurotransmitter that appears to tone down the body’s stress response by regulating another brain chemical, norepinephrine.”

Quite simply, it is your body’s natural state to be active. Studies show, for instance, that sitting for too long actually stimulates disease-promoting processes, and may double or even triple your risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and premature death.

Fortunately, staying active is easy. Find an exercise program that is geared toward your short-term and long-term physical improvement.

Dr. Fabrizio Mancini, former President of Parker College in Dallas says “there are 10 minute workouts that are as beneficial to transform your body as 60 and 90 minute workouts.”

You can also try doing regular stretching, as it will help you to reduce and manage stress, and improve your mental clarity and focus. As with exercise, proper form in stretching has everything to do with achieving the maximum health benefits. Consider “Stretching Toward a Healthier Life” or other DVDs for this purpose.

And remember, there’s a reason why they say “variety is the spice of life.” Exercise does not have to be boring or tedious. In fact, it can be enjoyable if you simply vary your workouts.

One day try a beginner’s kickboxing class at your gym. On the next day, go for a long, brisk walk with a friend. Then try a yoga class or weight lifting. Varying your workouts not only keeps things interesting, it also ensures that you’re working all of your muscle groups and getting all the benefits — like a major mood boost — that exercise has to offer.

“I sometimes think that running has given me a glimpse of the greatest freedom a man can ever know, because it results in the simultaneous liberation of both body and mind.”

–Roger Bannister


Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine;16(11):1145-52.