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Effect of Exercise on Well-being

You all have heard about the benefits of exercise for your well-being, here, I want to point out some of the major benefits of exercise.

Studies have shown positive effect of exercise on emotional states like decreasing stress, increasing sense of well-being and improving mood. These changes are mainly explained by release of endorphine; brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, and monoamines. Exercise also reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, it can also increase brain blood circulation; all these are body resources to decrease stress and anxiety, improve sleep and mood, which are usually disturbed with depression. Regular exercise requires planning and behavioral changes which in result improve self-efficacy, distraction and cognitive dissonance, and therefore alleviates depression. It also gives you a sense of command over your body and your life.

Another major benefit of regular exercise is cardiovascular health which has long been accepted. Frequent exercise is associated with lower blood pressure, higher insulin sensitivity, increased cardiac output and lower resting heart rate. Cardiac, vascular and respiratory changes are linked to changes in tissue metabolism, signaling, and hormones secretion related to exercise. Exercise can slow down aging induced structural changes of cardiovascular system. Aerobic exercise if long enough, usually more than 20 min with increased HR, between 65% to 75% of VO2 max, 3 times per week, has been shown to be effective to help cardiovascular well-being.

Physical activity is a well-documented, viable therapeutic modality for chronic pain conditions with beneficial effects on pain, sleep, cognitive function. The direct effect of exercise on pain is still unknown, however there is evidence of exercise induced hypoalgesia; feeling less pain in response to same stimulus. Increased pain threshold following exercise might be the result of mechanoreceptors activation during repetitive muscle contraction, the signal from these receptors can activate central opioid system or spinal gate control mechanism, and therefore decreasing the pain. Low to moderate intensity exercise defined as 50-60% of maximum heart rate (maxHR) tends to improve chronic pain symptoms. Specific resistive exercise is an effective approach to manage chronic conditions like chronic back pain or neck pain.


As discussed before chronic pain affects mood and cognition, research has shown that regular exercise increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, which might be responsible in enhancing cognitive function of brain and therefore can affect managing chronic pain. Exrcise also helps to distract the brain, usually after few min of exercise your brain gets distracted from your daily stress and start to concentrate on the movement, and the current physical activity, another way to help keep you calm after a busy day.


1. Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood. Guszkowska M, Psychiatria Polska, 30 Jun 2004, 38(4):611-620

2. A meta-analytic review of the effects of exercise on brain-derived neurotrophic factor, Kristin L. Szuhany,a Matteo Bugatti,a and Michael W. Otto, J Psychiatr Res. 2015 Jan; 60: 56–64

3. Seaward BL. Physical exercise: Flushing out the stress hormones. In: Essentials of Managing Stress. 3rd ed. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Publishers; 2014.

4. Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise. Matthew A. Nystoriak and Aruni Bhatnagar. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2018; 5: 135.

5. Effects of exercise on cardiovascular performance in the elderly. Carlo Vigorito1* and Francesco Giallauri. Front. Physiol., 20 February 2014

6. Physical exercise as non-pharmacological treatment of chronic pain: Why and when. Kirsten R. Ambrose, MS, CCRC1 and Yvonne M. Golightly, PT, MS, PhD. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2015 Feb; 29(1): 120–130.

7. Exercise-induced hypoalgesia: A meta-analysis of exercise dosing for the treatment of chronic pain. Anna M. Polaski,Amy L. Phelps,Matthew C. Kostek,Kimberly A. Szucs,Benedict J. Kolbe

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