A study published in Neurology (71:825-832, 2008) found that older people whose bodies are low on vitamin B12 can be at increased risk for brain shrinkage, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Subjects who had the lowest B12 levels but were not classified as vitamin deficient had a sixfold greater rate of brain-volume loss than those who had the highest amounts of the vitamin in their bodies.
Exercise can improve mood and mental functioning by altering the release of brain chemicals that promote good feelings. They include natural painkillers such as endorphins and enkephalin, which are released in the brain to counter the pain associated with exercise.
Even though such pain is considered desirable by most people, the brain still makes adjustments by releasing the natural analgesic chemicals that modulate pain while uplifting mood.
But how much exercise does it take to improve your mood? A recent study examined subjects who filled out a mood-state inventory after engaging in three bouts of exercise on a stationary bike: 10, 20 and 30 minutes.1
The level of exercise intensity was moderate at 60 percent of maximum oxygen intake. The benefits of this level of exercise included improvements in vigor, fatigue and total mood. They became evident after only 10 minutes of exercise, peaking at the 20-minute point. After that no added benefits occurred.
Based on those findings, the authors suggest that maximum mood improvements with exercise occur in 30 minutes, and that's all it takes to feel significantly better. Now, if we could just figure out a way to put stationary cycles in cars stuck in traffic, life might be brighter for everyone.
1 Hansen, C.J., et al. (2001). Exercise duration and mood state: How much is enough to feel better? Health Psychology. 20:267-275.
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