Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms
By Mayo Clinic
Depression symptoms often improve with exercise. Here are some realistic tips to help you get started and stay motivated.
You have anxiety or depression and exercise seems like the last thing you want to do. But once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference.
Exercise helps prevent and improve a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. Research on anxiety, depression and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help reduce anxiety and improve mood.
The links between anxiety, depression and exercise aren’t entirely clear — but working out can definitely help you relax and make you feel better. Exercise may also help keep anxiety and depression from coming back once you’re feeling better.
How does exercise help depression and anxiety?
Exercise probably helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include:
- Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
- Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
- Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects
Exercise has many 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.
- Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
- Get more social interaction. Exercise 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 anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms.
What kind of exercise is best? How do I begin?
The word “exercise” may make you think of running laps around the gym. But a wide range of activities that boost your activity level help you feel better. Certainly running, lifting weights, playing basketball and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can gardening, washing your car, or strolling around the block and other less intense activities. Anything that gets you off the couch and moving is exercise that can help improve your mood.
You don’t have to do all your exercise at once, either. Broaden how you think of exercise and find ways to fit activity into your routine. Add small amounts of physical activity throughout your day. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little farther away at work to fit in a short walk. Or, if you live close to your job, consider biking to work.
If you are unsure of how or where to begin, hiring a personal trainer is a great way to start. A personal trainer can assess and evaluate you to determine what, if any muscular imbalances or weaknesses you may have and develop a individualized training program that will keep you moving and motivated. Trainers can also help you set realistic goals -setting goals and achieving those goals are a great way to boost self confidence. Looking good makes you feel good. Not only can personal trainers help you achieve your health and fitness goals, they provide you with positive feedback on your performance and bolster your confidence to take on new challenges.
How many of you know what SAD is? (Seasonal Affective Disorder) also know as winter depression or winter blues. While one can experience SAD in any season, it is most commonly associated with and experienced in the fall and winter months.
I’m feeling the effects already! I wake up …it’s dark -I drive home…it’s dark. It’s getting colder and I’m spending less time outdoors. I have trouble waking up some mornings, and falling asleep at night. This sucks! I hate the winter!
These are all things I would have felt or said when I wasn’t exercising daily. Since I realized I probably had SAD (I’ve never actually been diagnosed)…(well, self diagnosed) I have tried to get some form of exercise in everyday -I must say, it has worked. So if any of you experience symptoms of SAD it may behoove you to go outside for a walk and get some sunlight, go to the gym and exercise or get some daylight mimicking light bulbs, hire a personal trainer and exercise in the comfort of your own home with a smile on your face.
Remember…ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE
In Good Health,