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Back in the 1980s, scientists discovered a brain chemical that exhibited remarkable morphine-like qualities. In minute amounts, this chemical (beta-endorphin), was found to reduce sensations of pain. Studies also showed that beta-endorphins could promote feelings of euphoria and exhilaration while reducing feelings of depression and anxiety. The good news is that you do not have to take beta-endorphin pills! This miraculous chemical is synthesized during aerobic activity. For this reason, cardiovascular exercise is now an important part of stress reduction programs, pain management programs, and self-care for depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.
Other studies have shown that moderate aerobic exercise can also enhance performance on memory and thinking tasks including addition problems, recall of numbers and words, perception and discrimination of geometric figures, and organization. Although it is still unclear as to why cardiovascular exercise has this effect, some researchers think that the rhythmic, repetitive motion of cardiovascular activities might offer a meditative quality to exercise. It is possible that these activities are capable of shifting dominant brain activity from the left to the right side, which results in increased mental receptivity, as well as a greater imagination and creativity to apply to problem solving.