Shortcut to Bliss
Here is an older article by the late David Servan-Schreiber, MD about all of the amazing benefits of physical activity. Although it’s from a while ago, I think the stories in it are so inspiring that I wanted to include it. From Oprah.com.
“What lifts depression, jump-starts creativity, soothes jitters, muscles up immune systems, reignites sex lives, and zings your body with tiny arrows of pleasure? Would you believe: small—really small—amounts of regular exercise. Honestly, it’s a miracle.”
This is my favorite part of the article:
How can exercise change the way we feel? Deep inside our skull, we have a “brain within the brain” that is responsible for emotions. This so-called limbic region also balances heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and all the hormones of the body. Because of such neural multitasking, when our body changes, our emotions change, too. During exercise, for example, our body releases endorphins—tiny molecules that resemble opium and its derivatives (like morphine and heroin). The emotional brain contains many receptors for endorphins, and that’s why it is so sensitive to opiates. (The drugs hijack the pleasure-registering receptors, immediately radiating a sensation of well-being and satisfaction.) When opiates are used often, however, they can become habit forming. The flooded brain reacts by reducing the number of receptors in order to avoid overstimulation. So the dose must be systematically increased in order to produce the same response. Moreover, because the receptors become less and less sensitive, regular pleasures lose their potency—including sex, which for drug addicts often offers little or no enjoyment.
The secretion of endorphins brought on by physical exercise does exactly the opposite. The more the natural mechanism of pleasure is gently stimulated by exercise, the more sensitive it becomes. In addition to relishing sex and life’s other big rewards, people who exercise regularly actually get more pleasure out of the little things: their friendships, cats, meals, hobbies, even the smiles of passersby in the street. Essentially, it becomes easier for them to be satisfied. Such heightened enjoyment is the antithesis of depression.
Isn’t that amazing? People who exercise regularly, which could be as little as 20 minutes three times a week, get more pleasure out of life! I think that may be one of the best reasons I’ve heard so far.