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How Does Exercise Reduce Anxiety And Depression?

09/14/2019
By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS

If you’re feeling abnormal due to anxiety or depression, getting out to exercise might feel like the last item on your agenda. However, the physical benefits of exercise, like jogging, lifting weights, participating in martial arts, or playing sports, are well documented. Here’s how exercise can reduce anxiety and depression.

How can I relax my stressed mind?

Research shows adults who engage in regular physical activity experience fewer symptoms related to depression and anxiety. Aside from helping them feel better, many people claim physical activity helps ward off future feelings of anxiety and depression.

It’s a busy world out there. Many people wonder how they can calm and relax a mind that has plenty to remember and take in. You might want to bring your stressed mind back into tranquility. If so, there are numerous physical activities that you can try. Here are some of them.

Running

Running’s a very popular activity in the fitness world—and for good reason. This exercise is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety, calm the mind and improve a person’s mood. Ben Michaelis, PhD is an evolutionary clinical psychologist. As an expert, he explains that running’s repetitive nature appears to have a meditative effect on the brain. So what are you waiting for? Get yourself some comfortable running shoes and get to work!

Fit woman running, to boost her mood. Which proves that exercise reduce anxiety.
Running Can Help Boost Your Mood and Reduce Your Anxiety (Image Source: Pixabay)

Hiking In The Outdoors

Many people enjoy exploring the beauty of nature by heading out on a hike. Research shows that doing so might have a profound impact on relaxing a stressed-out mind.

Two people hiking towards a snow covered mountain.
Hiking In The Outdoors Can Help Relax The Mind (Image Source: Unsplash)

A 2009 study in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine detailed an experiment carried out by Japanese researchers. They had people either walk in the city or in a wooded area. According to the researchers, those who walked in the woods had lower amounts of stress hormones.

Yoga

Yoga is popular for fitness enthusiasts who want to mix up their workouts. Also, you can reap the benefits of stretching and flexibility. According to Michaelis, yoga’s focus on breathing makes it a great physical tool to relax and calm the mind.

Fit woman doing yoga.
Doing Yoga Can Calm Your Mind (Image Source: Unsplash)

It’s tough to be anxious and stressed while breathing deep. Many people find the breathing techniques and strategies found inside of a yoga session are also useful in the everyday world. Getting started is as simple as obtaining a quality yoga mat.

What are the signs of depression?

According to the Mayo Clinic, depression is a mood disorder. It’s characterized by a general loss of interest and a persistent feeling of sadness. Depression can have a profound impact on how people feel and think. In fact, it can lead to difficulties in performing even the most basic of day-to-day activities. The signs of depression include:

  • Angry outbursts or feelings of irritability, even over minor matters
  • Sleep disturbances, like oversleeping or insomnia
  • Slow thinking, speaking, or movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt—with a focus on the past
  • Recurring thoughts about death or suicide

How do I know if I have anxiety?

Most people get anxious at some point during their lives. Daily activities can get stressful, especially if you are looking ahead towards the future. However, people who experience intense and excessive feelings of anxiety might have a disorder. This anxiety disorder that can greatly inhibit living a normal life.

There are several common symptoms of anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic. These include sweating, an elevated heart rate, nervousness, feelings of weakness, difficulty sleeping, and trembling.

AsktheMayoMom about Anxiety and Mood Disorders – Mayo Clinic

There are two main types of anxiety disorders. A generalized anxiety disorder is where people have disproportionate worry about daily events and activities. On the other hand, a social anxiety disorder is where people experience high levels of fear of social embarrassment. This can lead to avoidance behavior.

You should take excessive anxiety seriously. Too much anxiety corresponds with depression. This leads to an inability to function normally, excessive amounts of worrisome thoughts and worse. Here, it would be prudent to reach out to a doctor or qualified mental health professional. The good news is that exercise can lower your anxiety levels.

What does exercise do for depression?

Physical exercise can have a big impact on feelings of depression. The process of physical activity releases “feel-good” chemicals (endorphins) that can quickly change a person’s attitude, mood, and feelings.

According to a Harvard Health Letter, exercise over a long period of time sparks the release of certain proteins that help nerve cells make better connections. These new connections have been shown to help reduce depression.

The key to exercise is to be consistent. It can take the body time to mold and adjust to new routines – so start small. Even just five or ten minutes of exercise per day can have an impact on breaking cycles of depression. Instead, you’ll feel energized with more balance to your body chemistry.

Find an exercise routine that you enjoy and can practice on a regular basis. Try biking, practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or heading out to the tennis court with friends. These types of activities might make all the difference over the long-term. Of course, be sure to combine exercise with a healthy diet. Try to include foods that improve your mood, and you’re on your way to a healthier and happier lifestyle.

What exercise is best for anxiety?

The key to exercise is to get your heart rate moving. Regular exercise strengthens overall fitness so that your resting heart rate is lower between exercise sessions. This helps offset feelings of anxiety, usually linked to an increase in heart rate.

Great aerobic exercises that can play a big role in reducing feelings of anxiety include:

Swimming

Swimming is an excellent aerobic exercise that is low-stress on the bones and joints. Also, it’s great for general fitness and aerobic capacity, and very relaxing for many people.

Woman swimming in the ocean as an exercise to reduce anxiety
Swimming Is Not Just Good For Your Physical Health, It’s Also Good For Your Mental Health Since It Relaxes Your Mind (Image Source: Unsplash)

Brisk Walks

Activities like running or jogging are popular among fitness enthusiasts. However, a brisk walk in your neighborhood or on a trail can be enough exercise to reduce anxiety. Try to calm yourself by exploring your surroundings or nature. You might find that the process of moving around helps mitigate the effects of stress.

Dancing

Dancing can be an underrated form of exercise. It’s also a great tool for reducing anxiety, especially for people who hate doing cardio. In addition, learning to dance is a great way to make new friends. You’ll interact with different people in a fun and festive atmosphere—it’s a great way to put feelings of anxiety away. Don’t forget, dancing has a variety of health benefits for your body. It’s a fantastic accent to an exercise plan for those interested in greater flexibility and movement.

Couple dancing in the woods as an exercise to reduce anxiety
Dancing Is Fun and It Helps Reduce Anxiety (Image Source: Unsplash)

Time to Start Exercising to Reduce Anxiety and Depression

Physical activity can have a profound impact on feelings of anxiety and depression. Just getting up and moving can be a catalyst towards changing your perspective and mindset. This can spark a new or renewed interest in fitness and result in major changes to other areas in your life.

Remember, it’s all about being consistent. Start small and get into a physical fitness routine. It will pay off over the long term much more than sporadic exercise.

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