Exercise seems almost to be a buzzword at the moment. Wherever you turn, people are trying to convince you on the merits of getting active. Of course, for the most part it is true, but it can be tiresome to listen to. However, there are definite studies linking the positive effects of exercise and depression, so you may want to reconsider getting a bit healthier.
Anxiety and depression are, of course, very difficult medical issues to move through. One of the last things you feel like doing in a depressive state is exercising. However, if you do manage to motivate yourself off the couch, exercise can have some profound benefit.
Talking the physical side.
Of course, the physical benefits of exercise are well known. As soon as you get moving, no matter your previous state of health and no matter how simple the exercise you opt for, you will reap effects like the reduction of blood pressure, easing of arthritis symptoms and assistance with diabetes. Remember that depression is equally much a medical condition strongly tied to the body- it should come as no surprise that exercise can also have mood-improving and anxiety-relieving side effects.
How does exercise alleviate depression?
Unfortunately, the mechanism by which exercise has the effect on depression is not yet clear, but several studies have confirmed the link between the reduction of anxiety and elevation of mood. It can also ward off the return of depressive tendencies in recovering individuals. Exercise is a known way to release the endorphins, endocannabinoids and neurotransmitters collectively known as ‘feel good’ chemicals, all of which elevate the mood.
But that’s not all. It’s also been proven that exercise stimulates the immune system. In turn, this decreases the presence of certain co-factors for depression. It has also been suggested that ensuring a normal body temperature can have calming effects on anxiety. There’s a host of emotional benefits that can play into improved depression and anxiety levels, too. Exercise makes you more confident, assisting in meeting goals as well as how you feel about your appearance. It is also a great distraction from worries and cycles of negative thought. It promotes social interaction- even something as simple as a nod at the neighbour on your walk can have profound effects. It also can become a coping strategy for some.
I don’t want to join a gym!
Don’t panic yes. Exercise, in the sense of the studies done, more or less refers to all healthy physical activity. A walk around the neighbourhood can be enough to yield positive mental effects. Exercise, although referring to a series of structured body movements, also has a wider umbrella then many people think it does. It’s not only about running laps or heading to the gym! While running, weight training, structured games like squash, basketball and tennis and other formal fitness activities will certainly help you, anything that gets you moving can help to start yielding good results. Gardening, washing the car, and other less intense activities all count as physical movement that can boost your positive thoughts and help supress anxiety and depression.
Remember too that’s it’s not a matter of all or nothing. You don’t have to do a solid hour of weight training or it’s not worth it. Exercise can be cumulative through the day. Adding small, regular bursts of physical activity is the best way to bring exercise into your life. Look for opportunities in your day to day life to add in extra physical activity by taking the stairs, or parking further away. You can even, should you desire, look into more healthy commuting methods like biking if it would be feasible for your circumstances.
How long will it take to get results?
Exercise can have the feel-good chemical boost effect we mention above from the first session you undertake. However, many people feel pressured to go to big, especially if you are a novice to the exercise world, and this can have detrimental effects by leaving you stiff, sore and feeling defeated. It’s impossible to begin at a realistic fitness level for your current health, and gradually build up your physical activity level as your fitness improves. You will notice a cumulative effect from exercise over time, as it acts to gently boost your mood and lower anxiety levels when undertaken on a regular, preferably daily schedule.
I’m too [insert here] to exercise!
As we mentioned above, physical activity goes far beyond a formal gym environment. Everyone, no matter age, size or workload, can find a gentle and fulfilling exercise to add to their daily schedule. It’s possible for everyone to embrace physical activity, as a boost to mental as well as physical wellbeing, no matter their circumstances. Don’t be discouraged.
Exercise has been shown to help boot mood and reduce anxiety in patients, and is worth incorporating into any serious recovery plan.