depression, Health and Fitness, Mental Health

5 Reasons Why Exercise Helps Ease Anxiety and Depression

The gym is my escape, the place where I physically rid my body of emotional and mental weight.

My friend has been going through some things for a little while now and I thought she could benefit from a good workout.

We started out on the stair-master for about 12 minutes as a warm-up, and then moved into strength training.

The whole time she was saying “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” as she was doing leg presses and leg curls and glute kickbacks. She’s a bit of a drama queen, but I love her dearly.

After our session commenced, and as soon as she gets home, she texts me saying she already feels way better and is ready to go back again.

Never underestimate the power of a workout.

Working out in any way does wonders for your brain and body.

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When you have depression or anxiety, exercise is often the last thing you want to do. But once you get out there and get moving, exercise can make a huge difference in how you feel.


So how exactly does exercise benefit the brain and reduce anxiety and depression?

1. Exercising releases endorphins in your brain, which improve your mood and make you feel better.

Just one vigorous workout can immediately reduce anxiety and depression symptoms for hours.

In one pilot study, people with severe depression spent 30 minutes walking on treadmill for 10 consecutive days. Researchers found the activity was “sufficient to produce a clinically relevant and statistically significant reduction in depression.”

2. Exercise helps people deal with stress by enhancing the body’s physical ability to respond to stress

Biologically, exercise gives the body physical practice dealing with stress. It forces the body’s physiological systems involved in the stress response to communicate much more closely. The cardiovascular system communicates with the renal system, which communicates with the muscular system. And all of these are controlled by the central and sympathetic nervous systems, which also must communicate with each other. Therefore, the more sedentary we get, the less efficient our bodies are in responding to stress.

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3. Exercise helps with production of norepinephrine in our brain.

Research studies conducted with animals have found that exercise increases the brains concentrations of norepinephrine in regions involved in the body’s stress response.

Norepinephrine is particularly interesting because 50 percent of the brain’s supply is produced in the locus coeruleus, a brain area that connects most of the regions that are involved in emotional and stress responses. The chemical is thought to play a major role in influencing the action of other, more prevalent neurotransmitters that play a direct role in the stress response. Some anti-depressants increase brain concentrations of norepinephrine.

4. Working out is associated with improved self esteem and confidence.

Working out burns calories and in turn can help one lose weight. If you needed to rid those 10 pounds, you may begin to feel better about your overall appearance.

A study from researchers at McMaster University also found that people over age 40 who engaged in regular cardio activity tended to have healthier skin than their sedentary peers. The overall composition of the regular exercisers’ skin was more comparable to that of 20- and 30-year-olds.

Weight training, or strengthening exercises, helped reduce depression symptoms in study participants regardless if the participants grew physically stronger by the end of the trial. It worked regardless of how healthy the participants were when they started the resistance training.

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5. Is work stressing you out? Go for a walk. Exercise has been linked to a reduced risk of workplace burnout.

The concept of exercise and its positive impact on mental health dates back to the 1970s. Research has reported that exercise results in increased mood, self-concept, and work performance including greater productivity and reduced absenteeism. This relates back to the production of endorphins and increased mood.

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Summary:

  • Just one vigorous workout can immediately reduce anxiety and depression symptoms for hours.
  • Exercise gives the body physical practice dealing with stress, forcing the body’s physiological systems involved in the stress response to communicate more closely than usual.
  • Exercise can help your physical appearance and strength gains, thus improving self esteem and confidence.
  • Research has reported that exercise results in increased mood, self-concept, and work performance including greater productivity

So, get out there and walk your dog or hit the gym and start weight training.

If you don’t know the first thing about weight training, there are tons of great Youtube videos that teach you about form and the right exercises for the particular body part you want to strengthen.

I promise you will feel better afterwards.

Until next time,

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