But first let’s revisit what endorphins actually are and what they do.
www.merriamwebster.com defines them several ways as follows;
“any of a group of endogenous peptides (as enkephalin and dynorphin) found especially in the brain that bind chiefly to opiate receptors and produce some of the same pharmacological effects (as pain relief) as those of opiates; specifically : beta-endorphin
Any of a group of proteins occurring in the brain and having pain-relieving properties typical of opium and related opiates. Discovered in the 1970s, they include enkephalin, beta-endorphin, and dynorphin. Each is distributed in characteristic patterns throughout the nervous system. Endorphins are released in response to pain or sustained exertion (causing, e.g., the “runner's high”). They are also believed to have a role in appetite control, release of pituitary sex hormones, and shock. There is strong evidence that they are
connected with “pleasure centres” in the brain, and they seem to be activated by acupuncture.
Knowledge of their behaviour has implications for treating addictions and chronic pain.”
Now exercise can be weird because in certain ways it contradicts what one would assume to be true. For example, in order for those endorphins to be released, the exercise has to be strenuous to be of any benefit in that regard. You know the expression, “no pain-no gain”? It’s mostly used in regards to those who are trying to lose weight but it also applies here. You have to push yourself physically past the point that is “comfortable” in order to really get those endorphins jump started (mild exercise does release them but not
nearly as effectively).
Now that’s not to say that you should exert yourself to the levels that can be dangerous to your health, cause strokes or heart attacks and whatnot, but you need to go a little farther than what’s comfortable. Alway check with your doctor to see just how much you can do exercise-wise to stay within a range that is both safe and healthy!
So while it wouldn’t appear to make sense, exercising can actually reduce pain due to the endorphin release. Personally, I suffer from chronic pain in several areas but still feel a “need” to exercise almost daily.
Apparently doing so has pain relieving benefits. While I am hardly addicted to exercise, I do feel a bit off if I don’t do something every day. Now obviously if you have something like chronic knee pain, then doing jumping jacks or the stair-master would probably be a BAD exercise outlet for you. In that case exercises like sit-ups, pull-ups, kayaking, basically upper body concentrated activities, would be a better fit. If you can, you should try walking vigorously to the extent that you can without hurting yourself or causing additional pain
(that would kind of defeat the purpose of those pain relieving qualities of the endorphins wouldn’t it?)
It has been shown that exercise, due to the various internal systems that activity stimulates, helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
As far as I’m concerned, those are 3 of the major areas or issues that people who become alcohol/drug dependent, are trying to find relief from.
Again, the best thing is to figure out the whys of the stress, anxiety and/or depression and to learn cognitive methods for mitigating or eliminating them, but in the meantime, if we can do other things to just “feel
better” without using, then why not? So put on that jogging suit and do something.
Ok, the benefits of leading an active life with exercise being a part of your routine, don’t end there.
Being active has also shown to be effective for increasing one’s memory capacity and also heightens one’s ability to think efficiently.
Exercise is also a great way to just get away from the mental grind of everyday life. It’s good to give the mind well deserved rests and when you are engaged in exercise, sports, games, etc… you can detach from all the
issues, responsibilities and pressures in your world and that in itself helps reduce stress.
Lastly, exercise can be social and FUN. A pickup game of basketball, a round of golf with good friends, or even jogging with a pal, can be a great social outlet.
But even if you prefer to do the solo workout, the benefits are still great.
I personally enjoy both. I derive pleasure from hitting a tennis ball by myself against a wall and it’s a great way to get into that “no think” Zen kind of mode. Then there are other times that my competitive juices enjoy the challenge of a tennis match.
No matter how you approach it, it’s all good!
Endorphins and exercising to get them revved up an inexpensive and painless (sort of) way to help increase both your physical and mental health.
So, I’ll see you in the gym! (Actually I hate gyms but you get the idea :->