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How Can Exercise Help With Depression & Anxiety?

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The symptoms of Depression & Anxiety can often be improved when individuals introduce exercise and physical activity into their lives. For people who suffer from depression & anxiety, exercise may be one  of the last things on the mind. Exercise can make a huge difference to peoples lives once they get motivated to begin

It is well documented that exercise can prevent and also improve a number of health related issues such as high blood pressure, weight loss, diabetes and arthritis. Much research has shown how the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can very often help to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and can improve overall mood.

The connection between anxiety, depression and exercise are not 100% clear, however a gym workout, a brisk walk or a jog will definitely help you to unwind and relax and you will feel better afterwards. Exercising & being active does not have to mean going to gym and digging out the often feared lycra out of the closet- there are an unlimited amount of ways by which to get the heart beating.

Being active does not have to mean going to the gym, taking up jogging or wearing lycra. There are lots of ways to be active – and they don’t need to cost much money.

So How Can Exercise Help With Depression & Anxiety?

Here are some ways that exercise can help with depression:

  • Feel-Good Brain Chemicals- These chemicals are released during exercise, and these neurotransmitters and endorphins may help to reduce depression.
  • Reduction of immune system chemicals- The chemicals can make depression worse
  • Sleep - Regular exercise will help to improve sleep patterns which may be affected by Depression.
  • Increasing Body Temperature - Which may have calming effects.

Exercise provides Numerous Psychological Benefits

  • Sense of Achievement - Meeting exercise targets/goals, no matter how small, will boost self-confidence. Exercise can help people to get into shape and look good, which in turns leads to positive self-esteem. Exercise helps to provide you with a focus and also motivation.
  • Distraction - Exercising is a distraction from any worries you may be encountering and will take you away from any negative thoughts.
  • Social Benefits - Exercise gives you the chance to play with a team or against other people so you can get out of the house/office etc and have some fun with people. Even going for a walk might give you the opportunity to see the neighbours, friends etc.
  • Coping in Positive Way - With Depression & Anxiety, doing something positive such as exercising becomes a coping strategy.

What is the Best Exercise?

Exercise is a daunting word for many, that  might strike up connotations of lifting weights or running laps (which might seem  scary to some). Of course the aforementioned are good ways of exercising, there are countless activities such as, running, walking the dog, cycling, swimming, playing sports such as football or tennis. However exercise is not limited to sports – other activities which get the heart pumping include washing your car, painting the house, doing the gardening etc.  Anything that gets someone off the couch and moving about is beneficial and improves mood. 

Thirty minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week is recommended and even though it sounds like a lot, do not get put off. Make time in your day to do this. If you do not have 30 mins, take two- 15 time slots out of your day. Add small amounts of activity to your daily routine – cycle to work, take the bus and walk, park your car further away from the office…. These little changes can all help to improve your overall health. Build up your level of exercise gradually so you are not throwing yourself straight into the deep end. All these little changes in your life can help to improve your physical health which can then have an impact on your mental health and help reducing the effects of depression & anxiety.

If you would like to discuss an exercise plan with one of our Physiotherapists or indeed to discuss reducing the effects of depression with one of our Clinical Psychologists please get in touch with us.