A regular exercise program works to prevent a large number of health issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. However, research has also shown that exercise not only benefits the physical body, but it also assists with the psychological side by improving the mood and relieving anxiety and depression.
Studies are still ongoing to determine what exactly the link is between physical exercise and its effects on anxiety and depression. Although still not entirely clear, some studies suggest that participating in a regular exercise program can even keep these mood killers from returning once they’ve been alleviated.
Possible Ways in Which Exercise May Reduce Anxiety and Depression
Health professionals believe that there are a number of ways which a regular exercise routine may help to ease anxiety and depression. Mayo Clinic lists the following possibilities:
Exercise Releases Positive Brain Chemicals
Endorphins and neurotransmitters are released when you exercise which improve the mood and may ease anxiety and depression.
Exercise Reduces Chemicals in the Immune System
Although a regular fitness routine improves the immune system overall, there appear to be certain immune system chemical levels which work to worsen depression that exercise actually lowers.
Exercise Increases the Temperature of the Body
Studies suggest that an elevated body temperature works to calm the mood.
Exercise Reduces Worry
Spending idle time worrying is a main source of depression. Exercise provides a positive distraction that can assist in breaking the cycle of negative thinking.
Exercise Reduces Bad Habits
Idle time and worry also drive many people to drink and take drugs (both legal and illegal) in order to escape the depression. Of course, these practices have been proven to actually worsen the depressed state of those using them. Exercise, therefore, provides a healthy alternative to these bad habits and usually leads to healthier eating habits as well.
Exercise Increases Self-Confidence
An exercise program presents challenges and requires setting and meeting goals. Meeting set goals has a positive effect on one’s self-confidence. That is why it is important to set many small goals instead of a few very large ones. Also, physical fitness exercises produce a better looking physique. When you look better, you feel better and gain more self-confidence.
Exercise Provides Social Interaction
Going to the gym, jogging or cycling with buddies, joining a yoga or martial arts class, etc places you into a group setting which opens a lot of opportunities to socialize. Having others to laugh with or share problems with is a big mood enhancer.
Types of Exercise Which Best Relieve Anxiety and Depression
Actually, any type of activity that motivates you to stop sulking and start moving is beneficial. Taking walks, landscaping your house, chopping wood, building a new deck and other soft activities will at least get you off the couch and move your attention to other areas.
However, to get the full benefits of exercise for anxiety and depression, certain types of exercise are recommended. High intensity exercises which get the heart pumping are the best selections. A weightlifting program, jogging, swimming laps, or playing soccer, basketball or racquetball are some of the fitness activities which can be pursued. Also, try to keep a good pace for at least 30 minutes in order to reap the benefits of the exercise.