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By Ashley Moor/Sept. 8, 2021 11:27 am EDT
Aside from building your muscle mass and supporting the health of essential organs like the lungs and heart, frequent exercise can also work wonders for your brain and mental health. If you’ve ever experienced “runner’s high,” you can attribute it to the boost in your brain’s dopamine levels. According to the Trends in Cognitive Sciences journal, dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for transmitting signals between the brain’s nerve cells. Though dopamine doesn’t actually produce pleasure, it reinforces feelings of pleasure when it connects pleasure to certain behaviors, according to Very Well Mind. “It’s a feel-good chemical,” Tanya J. Peterson, NCC, DAIS, told Very Well Mind. “It’s part of our reward center, and when our brain produces dopamine in response to what we do, we feel good and want to do more of whatever it is that’s making us feel so mentally healthy. That, in turn, leads to even more dopamine production.”
According to Greater Good Magazine, dopamine is released in the brain during exercise. In fact, those who exercise regularly will experience higher levels of dopamine in the brain and body. The increase in dopamine levels in the brain that takes place during a workout can “relieve depression and expand your capacity for joy.”
These are the exercises that will boost your dopamine levels
Looking for an instant mood boost? Luckily for you, there are several exercises that boost the levels of dopamine in your brain. Those who can walk around barefoot in their home or yard should do so whenever they can. As Dr. Manoj Kutteri wrote for The New Indian Express, barefoot walking can produce the same benefits as acupuncture or acupressure in that it stimulates pressure points that increase the dopamine levels in your brain. Those looking to work up a sweat and boost their mood should try out pilates or core conditioning. According to Dr. Kutteri, approximately 50 percent of dopamine is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, meaning that pilates (which requires quite a bit of core action) and core conditioning can improve depression, anxiety, and even build a healthier gut. Healthline also reported that aerobic exercises, like running on a treadmill, can also increase dopamine levels in the brain.
In order to feel the full effects of increased dopamine levels in your brain, you’ll need to exercise regularly, and, if you can, slowly build up your workout regimen to include more strenuous activities. However, if strenuous workouts are not your thing, low-impact workouts can also produce the same mood boost. “If being a fiercely competitive athlete isn’t your thing, walking, yoga, or other low-impact exercises can increase dopamine levels associated with improved mood and sense of well-being,” Dana Ryan, Ph.D., told Men’s Journal. That’s right — a dopamine rush can be achieved by the masses.
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