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Can Exercise Improve Brain Functioning?

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Exercise can change the brain for the better. When you exercise your body releases endorphins which are responsible for feeling joy. Typically, entering this blissful state only takes about 20 minutes! Regular exercise contributes to profound and long-term mental health improvement. This long-term improvement occurs as antidepressant acids are being released into the blood for days after exercising. It’s no wonder that exercise has been “prescribed” by health professionals for decades.

Dopamine and brain health

Depression, in some cases, may be caused by low levels of dopamine. The part of your brain responsible for joy and motivation, known as the reward system, is activated with exercise. This activation of the reward system increases dopamine circulation in the body fast. What’s even more amazing? Increased dopamine levels from a 20-minute sweat fest stay elevated for a full 24 hours. Thus, the long-term effects of exercise can contribute to a “new normal” increase of dopamine levels. Studies even suggest that dopamine levels decrease as we age and exercise is a sure way to stay feeling and looking younger.

Endocannabinoids and feeling good

Marijuana increases endocannabinoids- the feel good emotions in the brain. This is where alternative marijuana names like, cannabis, originate from. Balanced endocannabinoids in the amygdala help strengthen feelings of contentment, positivity, and love. There is truth in the “runner’s high” theory! This natural high not only comes from releasing endorphins, but exercise also naturally increases the endocannabinoids in your amygdala and prefrontal cortex. So if you are needing a little mood boost, try going for a 20-minute jaunt around the neighborhood.

Sore muscles for improved mood

Instead of regretting the extra 10-minutes you spent lifting weights, try embracing the soreness that comes with it! Your body is doing more than just recovering physically from sore muscles. Lactic acid is the main contributor to sore muscles. When lactic acid is released from the muscles, it enters the bloodstream, and finds its way to the brain. A Harvard study found that lactic acid increases noradrenaline. Noradrenaline is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is highly important for combating depression, proper brain function, waking up in the morning, and focusing.

Exercise is essential for overall well-being. We encourage those receiving ketamine treatments to exercise in a way that works for them and their unique needs. Always talk to your doctor about what is safe for you to do. We understand how busy life can get and driving to the gym can sometimes feel more exhausting than it is worth. Simple habit changes are all that's necessary. During the winter, bundle up and take a walk with your family after dinner. During the summer, ride your bike to the park and throw the frisbee for your dog. However, if you are game to take a spin class, or martial art class at the gym, then go for it. The important thing is to just get moving!

Our ketamine center is located in Aspen, Colorado. For many people, exercise is not always enough to improve mood. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or PTSD we invite you to come experience the life changing effects of our ketamine infusion therapy.

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