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Get those Endorphins working for you

By Adam Browne
Take a look at how your daily exercise routine can bring enormous benefits to wellbeing and MS.
Well-being is a multifactorial state of health and self-existence, this is individual and can be seen in many different ways including: mental and physical health, relationships, and overall quality of life. We have previously covered a lot of the benefits that physical activity has on our physical health including; strength, cardiovascular health, and a reduction in MS associated symptoms. What doesn’t get talked about a lot is the benefits of physical activity on your mental health. 

Depression is commonly observed in people with MS, and has been associated with lower quality of life scores. Participation in regular physical activity is a potential way to assist in the management of depression.  There has been strong evidence previously in non-MS populations that suggest those individuals who participate in regular physical activity are less likely to suffer from depression and show the associated improvements in quality of life scores. More recent studies demonstrate that physical activity in patients with MS reduce the occurrence of depression and fatigue and positively influence quality of life. 
How does exercise help with mental health?
When we are regularly physically active our bodies release endorphins (neuropeptides – natural pain and stress relievers) into the body, these endorphins have been shown to assist in the management of depression, stress, anxiety and other emotional difficulties that may be brought on through living with MS and or just general daily life. Other mental health benefits of exercise include improved self-esteem, as our bodies release endorphins it triggers a positive feeling in the rest of the body. Endorphins also act as analgesics, meaning they diminish the perception of pain and as sedatives, assist in sleep. It is understandable that people with MS may not be as physically active as they should be for many reasons but it is clear that the benefits both physically and mentally will improve well-being. With appropriately prescribed exercise programs; taking into account the individual’s abilities, many mental health benefits may occur, including: 
  • Reduced Stress
  • Reduced rates and feelings of depression
  • Decreased pain
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Improved quality of life scores
  • Decreased levels of anxiety
  • Improved sleep
All of these benefits are liked to improving a person’s well-being. Strong social networks are also associated with increasing self-esteem and well-being so joining a group exercise class may be beneficial or exercising with a close friend and family member will assist with emotional support. Remember regular physical activity will be different for everyone so if you do not have a physical activity regime start slow and build up or see an exercise physiologist or your physiotherapist to assist with getting you started.

Any exercise is better than no exercise. 
Stroud, N., & Minahan, C. (2009). The impact of regular physical activity on fatigue, depression and quality of life in persons with multiple sclerosis. Health Qual Life Outcomes, 7(68).