Day 14 – In search of serotonin

14 01 2010

Sometimes there are days when bad things happen around you and you have little control, yet you are affected. Today was one of those days. A day I would typically feel sorry for myself and skip exercising in the name of giving myself a break.

As I stared at my computer screen – totally distracted from work – I thought about what the kids’ PE teacher talked about last night. (See yesterday’s Fitter than a 5th grader blog.) About exercise increasing levels of serotonin to improve your mood in addition to your fitness. I know at a gut level (where 75% of your serotonin happens to be located) that I feel better when I run, but I searched for more on the topic. Here’s an excerpt from the Live Strong website (which has some fantastic info. on several topics):

“Serotonin is a brain chemical that helps move messages throughout the nervous system. This neurotransmitter performs many functions, including regulating mood, appetite and the sleep/wake cycle. Consuming certain foods helps stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain—and so does exercise.” (Full article at

I learned from another site that bananas and chocolate also have serotonin, so I had those in addition to Boot Camp. Suffice to say, I was not the star camper today. I modified almost every station and wasn’t giving 100% — feeling mentally exhausted. At the end of the day now, I’m glad I got SOME serotonin pumping or I would likely feel even worse.

Live Strong said that sunlight is one of the external factors that can increase serotonin, so now my whole life is making sense. I need sunshine and I need to run and continue my triathlon attempts!

It says: “Yoga, Pilates, weight training and stretching are fantastic exercises for strength, flexibility and stress management. However, aerobic exercise, including walking, running, biking, swimming (among others) seem to be the most effective at increasing serotonin synthesis in the brain.”

So it’s all chemical – and one that your body produces naturally provided you give it sunshine, chocolate and at least 30 minutes a day of aerobic activity.