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Power of muscles

The fascinating connection between exercise, myokines and mental well-being

Anwar Wahhab | Published 28.05.23, 08:47 AM
A still from the film Premium Rush

A still from the film Premium Rush

In our pursuit of happiness and well-being, we often seek external solutions without realising that our bodies possess remarkable capabilities to influence our mental health. While we commonly associate exercise with physical fitness, emerging research suggests that there is more to it than meets the eye. In this article, as a mental performance mastery coach, I invite you on a journey to discover the hidden potential of your muscles and the fascinating connection between exercise, myokines and mental well-being.

The marvellous world of Myokines


Muscles, traditionally seen as mere tools for movement, are now recognised as endocrine organs that release bioactive molecules called myokines. These incredible substances have the power to impact our overall health, including our mental well-being. While there isn’t a specific “hope molecule” yet, scientists are uncovering the potential of myokines to positively influence our mood and emotional state.

Unleashing the antidepressant effects

Exercise has long been associated with improved mood and reduced symptoms of depression. The release of myokines during muscle contractions seems to play a vital role in this phenomenon. One myokine that has garnered attention is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), known for its role in promoting neuron growth and survival in the brain. By engaging in regular exercise, you not only strengthen your muscles but also stimulate the production of BDNF, potentially leading to enhanced mental well-being.

Irisin: Illuminating the path to happiness

Another remarkable myokine that deserves our attention is irisin. Released during exercise, irisin has been linked to increased expression of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in the brain. Animal studies have indicated that irisin may possess antidepressant-like effects, raising exciting possibilities for its role in human mental health. While further research is needed, it is fascinating to contemplate the potential of irisin as a natural mood enhancement.

Beyond BDNF and Irisin

While BDNF and Irisin have taken the spotlight, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Numerous other myokines are released during exercise, and their potential impact on mental health is an active area of research. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) Inflammatory signalling proteins, for instance, have shown promise in neuroprotection and brain function modulation. As our understanding of myokines deepens, we may uncover more intriguing substances that contribute to our mental well-being.

Taking charge of your mental health

Armed with knowledge of exercise’s impact on myokine production, you hold the key to your own mental well-being. Embracing a regular exercise routine that incorporates both cardiovascular activities and strength training can unlock the potential antidepressant effects of your muscles. Engage in activities you enjoy, such as dancing, cycling, or weightlifting, and let the magic of myokines elevate your mood.

The ripple effect of exercise

The benefits of exercise extend far beyond the release of myokines and their impact on mental health. Engaging in regular physical activity also promotes better sleep patterns, reduces stress, boosts self-confidence, and enhances cognitive function. When you exercise, you create a positive ripple effect that permeates various aspects of your life. Improved sleep quality allows for better emotional regulation; reduced stress levels contribute to a calmer mind; increased selfconfidence empowers you to tackle challenges; and enhanced cognitive function sharpens your focus and creativity.

Creating healthy habits

Embarking on a journey of exercise and mental well-being is not just about short-term gains; it’s about establishing healthy habits for life. By integrating regular exercise into your routine, you are not only reaping the immediate benefits but also laying the foundation for longterm physical and mental health. Consistency is key, and as you make exercise a habit, you’ll find that it becomes an integral part of your lifestyle.

Embracing the mind-body connection

As you continue on your exercise journey, cultivate a deeper connection between your mind and body. Mindfulness techniques, such as paying attention to your breath, focusing on the present moment, and engaging in intuitive movement, can enhance the positive effects of exercise on your mental well-being. By tuning in to the sensations and signals from your body during physical activity, you can further amplify the mind-body connection and promote a sense of inner harmony.

Community and support

Finding a community or support system can greatly enhance your exercise experience and mental well-being. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who share your passion for fitness and self-improvement can provide motivation, accountability, and a sense of belonging. Join local fitness groups, participate in online communities, or consider partnering with a workout buddy to embark on your fitness journey together. Together, you can celebrate achievements, overcome challenges, and inspire one another to reach new heights.

Embracing self-compassion

Remember, your exercise journey is unique to you. It’s important to approach it with self-compassion and celebrate every step forward, no matter how small. Avoid comparing yourself to others and focus on your own progress. Listen to your body’s needs and adjust your exercise routine accordingly. Rest when needed, modify exercises to suit your abilities, and honour your own limitations. By cultivating self-compassion, you create a nurturing environment for personal growth and mental well-being.

Continual exploration and growth

As you dive deeper into the world of exercise and its impact on mental well-being, keep an open mind and continue exploring new avenues. Try different types of workouts, experiment with various forms of movement, and stay curious about the evolving research in this field. Embrace the ever-growing understanding of myokines and their potential effects on mental health. By remaining open to new possibilities, you open doors to further self-discovery, growth, and an enriched experience of the mind-body connection.

The author is a mental performancemastery coach and a bioprintpractitioner. You can reach him

Last updated on 28.05.23, 08:47 AM

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