Exercise and Its Effects on Serotonin & Dopamine Levels

Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that allow signals to pass from one nerve cell to the next. Serotonin affects mood, sexual desire, appetite, sleep, memory and temperature regulation. Low serotonin levels are connected with depression. Dopamine affects movement, emotional response and your ability to feel pleasure. Depletion of dopamine can lead to Parkinson's disease.

Exercise and Brain Chemicals

Exercise might increase your brain's ability to take up serotonin from your blood and increase dopamine production. A study published in 2011 in "Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports" reported that subjects who participated in aerobic exercise had lower blood levels of serotonin than subjects who only did stretching exercises. According to an article published in 2003 in "Neurobiology in Disease," exercise increases blood calcium levels, which increases dopamine production in the brain.

Exercise and Depression Management

Exercise and Its Effects on Serotonin & Dopamine Levels

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Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, so increasing the brain's uptake of serotonin may help treat depression. The authors of the study published in "Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports" reported that participants who did the aerobic exercises had lower levels of depression. According to an article in PrimaryPsychiatry.com, low dopamine levels might be connected to depression as well, and changing dopamine levels might increase the therapeutic benefit of selective serotonin reuptake inhibiters, or SSRIs, medications used to treat depression.

Additional Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

According to "Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine," exercise might prevent Parkinson's disease, or at least slow its progression. A study published in 2007 in "Neurobiology of Disease" suggests the biological mechanism might be due to changes in the brain's uptake of dopamine. Exercise might also reduce anxiety. According to Mayo Clinic, exercise might increase your confidence, offer more social interaction and take your mind off worries.

How Much Exercise and What Type?

Does Exercise Release Dopamine?

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According to Web MD, any exercise that gets you moving is good for your mood, including walking, running, and even gardening or washing your car. Some movement is needed. The article in "Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports" found stretching exercises did not increase uptake of serotonin. Web MD says that doing at least 30 minutes of exercise daily three to five days a week might improve depression symptoms significantly. Even 10 to 15 minutes at a time might help.