The Endorphin Advantage Article of the Week Sept 11-15, 2017
This past weekend I noticed that the leaves appear to be changing colour, perhaps a little earlier than in years past. A cooler summer and fall are probably to thank for this early transformation. I love going for walks with my wife Jen in the cooler fall weather because it is our way of taking time out of busy schedules to communicate with one another and catch up.
I also like the fact that we are moving our bodies and getting some exercise while we connect. This week I want to talk about endorphins. Endorphins are a group of hormones that are made by your brain and nervous system that have an analgesic, that is, pain reducing effect. They are actually similar in structure to the potent pain killer morphine and they bind to the same receptors in the cells of your nervous system to block pain signals and trigger feelings of euphoria. So for any of you looking for a wonderful suggestion to reduce dependence on pain killers, or to just feel some relief from everyday aches and pains, one potent strategy has to do with increasing your body's endorphin production.
So how do you get your body to make more endorphins? By increasing the intensity of your movement throughout the day. Here is an example of a program that you could incorporate into your day to increase your endorphin release. If you can run, spend 30 seconds to a minute running as quickly as you can, followed by 2 minutes of easy walking. Repeat this run/walk cycle 5 times for a total of 15 minutes.
If you are unable to run, walk as briskly as possible for 1 minute so that your heart rate and pattern of breathing intensify. Again, follow this minute of higher exertion with 2 minutes of slower, more relaxed walking. Science has shown that endorphin release increases when you exert yourself beyond your normal comfort level for short bursts. If you can't walk, you can try a stationary bike or swimming.
In my opinion, this is the best time of the year to get outside and become more active. I want you to think about how you can increase the intensity of your movements throughout the day as a way of increasing your daily endorphin release. This will not only make your body feel great, but endorphins also improve your mood and alleviate feelings of depression.
Because endorphins elevate your mood and alleviate aches and pains, scientists have found that you will be more likely to repeat the activity that produced the endorphins in the first place, and it will become easier for you to motivate yourself and develop a new healthy habit.
Another takeaway here is that more is not always better. Several 1 minute bursts of more intense activity, with intermittent rests over a 15-20 minute period can actually produce more endorphins that working out for 45 minutes or more at a more moderate level of exertion.
On top of feeling better, this daily habit can improve your memory and thinking, reduce brain fog, improve the health of your skin, slow down aging, balance your blood sugar and reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
It doesn't have to take long or be a chore. If you're starting from no activity, make a commitment to start with 15 minutes and see where this step will lead. I'm betting it will become something that improves your health and quality of life for the long term.
Yours in Health,