Regular exercise helps ease depression and anxiety

It’s ironic, but no laughing matter for anyone who has depression or anxiety. Exercise is proven to be more effective than pharmaceuticals in helping you thrive with either condition, yet when you have depression or anxiety, any form of fitness seems like a challenge. As an old adage says, more than 50 percent of the battle is getting to the gym, but once you walk through the doors at Power Athlete, exercise can make a significant positive difference.

It is widely known that exercise helps prevent and improve a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. Research on depression, anxiety and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help improve mood and reduce anxiety.

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The links between depression, anxiety and exercise aren’t entirely clear, but working out and other forms of physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of depression or anxiety and make you feel better. Exercise may also help keep depression and anxiety from coming back once you’re feeling better.

According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by:

·       Releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.

·       Taking your mind off worries so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety.

Regular exercise has multiple psychological and emotional benefits, too. It can help you:

·       Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.

·       Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.

·       Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how you feel, or hoping depression or anxiety will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.

Physical activity such as regular walking may help improve mood. Physical activity and exercise are not the same thing, but both are beneficial to your health.

Physical activity is any activity that works your muscles and requires energy and can include work or household or leisure activities. Exercise is a planned, structured and repetitive body movement done to improve or maintain physical fitness.

The word “exercise” may make you think of running laps around the gym. But exercise includes a wide range of activities that boost your activity level to help you feel better.

Certainly running, lifting weights, playing basketball and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can physical activity such as gardening, washing your car, walking around the block or engaging in other less intense activities. Any physical activity that gets you off the couch and moving can help improve your mood.

You don’t have to do all your exercise or other physical activity at once. Broaden how you think of exercise and find ways to add small amounts of physical activity throughout your day. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little farther away from work to fit in a short walk. Or, if you live close to your job, consider biking to work.

PowerAthlete’s adult program offers variety designed to keep you engaged while generating strength, conditioning, flexibility and agility. Plans designed by Power Athlete trainers allow you to stay inspired and reach your goals, one workout at a time.

Doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms. But smaller amounts of physical activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — may make a difference. It may take less time exercising to improve your mood when you do more vigorous activities, like PowerAthlete’s circuits.

The mental health benefits of exercise and physical activity may last only if you stick with it over the long term — another good reason to focus on finding activities that you enjoy.

Don’t think of exercise or physical activity as a chore. If exercise is just another “should” in your life that you don’t think you’re living up to, you’ll associate it with failure. Rather, look at your exercise or physical activity schedule the same way you look at your therapy sessions or medication — as one of the tools to help you get better.

Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. If you skip exercise one day, that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain an exercise routine and might as well quit. Just try again the next day. Stick with it.