As many people know, exercise helps prevent or improve a multitude of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. However, research on depression and anxiety shows that the psychological and physical effects of exercise can also help improve mood and reduce anxiety.
How does it work? Scientists aren't entirely clear on the link between exercise and its effect on mood but they do know it has many benefits to the body and mind. Regular exercise may help ease depression by stimulating the release of endorphins, natural “feel-good” brain chemicals that improve your sense of well-being. Activity also helps take your mind off of your worries which helps reduce the cycle of negative thoughts that can feed depression. For many people they find that exercise improves their self confidence, gives them a healthy coping mechanism for stress and it encourages social interaction.
You may wonder how much and what type of exercise you should try, especially since depression may make exercise the last thing you want to do. The good news is, you can exercise in a number of ways. Walking, running, playing sports or taking exercise classes can all get your heart and body moving. But you can also increase your activity with smaller changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, doing yard work or parking farther away from work or school.
Completing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for 3-5 days a week may significantly improve depression symptoms, but even smaller amounts may make a difference.
You should check with a health professional before beginning a new exercise program to ensure that it is safe for you. Exercise can be a helpful part of managing your depression, however please continue to follow the advice and treatment provided by a mental health professional.
Stephany Primrose, P.T.