Exercise to Reduce Depression, Stress and Anxiety
Exercise. Love it or loathe it, it’s a crucial part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Many people are driven by the physical benefits of exercise (weight loss, muscle building, etc.), but exercise also provides mental benefits.
Along with physical health, exercise can help stave off depression, anxiety and stress.
Exercising to De-Stress
Stress is a part of life. Seven out of ten adults in America say they experience stress or anxiety on a daily basis. They also say that this stress and anxiety interferes with their lives in some way.
The de-stressing effects of exercise are well-known. Exercise can reduce fatigue while improving concentration and alertness. Staying active can improve overall cognitive function.
When stress depletes all of your mental and physical energy, this boost can go a long way in helping you get through the day without adding even more stress.
Exercise also provides a mood boost because the body produces endorphins – feel-good chemicals – when you’re active. Exercising also lowers stress hormone levels, including cortisol and adrenaline.
A good exercise session also helps you sleep better, which further helps you combat the effects of stress. Research has found that regular aerobic exercise decreases tension while improving mood, sleep and self-esteem.
The self-esteem boost alone can go a long way in reducing stress, depression and anxiety. The feeling of pride and accomplishment helps support a healthier mindset. With higher energy levels, thanks to exercise, you can get more things done without feeling mentally or physically fatigued. When you’re able to do more and without added stress, you – again – feel more accomplished.
Exercising to Combat Depression
You’ve probably heard the term “runner’s high.” It refers to that euphoric feeling that people often get after a good run or cardio session at the gym. That feeling is triggered by the release of endorphins.
But low-intensity, sustained exercise produces a bit of a different effect. It triggers the release of proteins known as growth factors, which helps form new cells and create new connections.
Research has shown that the hippocampus, the area that controls mood, in the brain is smaller in people who are depressed. Exercise helps trigger new cell growth in the hippocampus, helping to alleviate depression.
The biggest challenge is getting started. For people battling depression, it can be difficult enough to even get out of bed. The thought of running on a treadmill or going for a walk around the block may seem unattainable. On top of all of this, many people may fear the aftermath of working out – pain, soreness, fatigue, etc.
To overcome this problem, start with just five minutes of exercise per day. Work your way up slowly to avoid soreness and pain.
Even just five minutes of activity can produce anti-anxiety effects and help relieve depression symptoms slightly.
When I was suffering with bad anxiety and depression the last thing I want to do was exercise, but now I enjoy my morning workouts at home on my exercise bike from IndoorBiker.co.uk followed by some yoga.
Exercising to Kick Anxiety to the Curb
Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults. In fact, anxiety is the most common psychiatric illness in America.
When it comes to the mental effects of exercise, research has shown that a 10-minute walk may be just as effective as a 45-minute workout. That’s great news for people with anxiety. It’s much easier to take a 10-minute walk around the block than to endure a 45-minute workout in a crowded gym.
The effects are temporary, meaning you’ll need to exercise for a longer duration to maximize benefits, but it’s a great starting point for anyone battling anxiety.
Working your way up to a 45- or 60-minute walk, jog, run or strength training session will provide better mental benefits. Research has shown that exercise can help the body better cope with stress. One study found that people who engaged in regular vigorous exercise were 25% less likely to develop anxiety or depression over the next five years.
Exercise may not be the cure for depression and anxiety, but it can go a long way in alleviating symptoms. When coupled with medication and therapy, many people have been able to successfully manage or overcome these issues over time. Persistence and discipline are the keys to success.
If you’re battling anxiety or stress, it’s important to talk to your doctor first before starting a new exercise routine. Physical activity may interfere with the effects of certain medications.