Exercise Can Ease Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
This is an excerpt of an article and is presented by Soul Support Counseling, West Hartford, CT. CALL 860-223-2232 with your questions about the effect of exercise on anxiety and depression or for a free consultation.
Even a little exercise helps. Use these realistic tips and goals to get started and stick with it.
If you have depression or anxiety, you might find your doctor or mental health provider prescribing a regular dose of exercise in addition to medication or psychotherapy. Exercise isn't a cure for depression or anxiety. But its psychological and physical benefits can improve your symptoms.
"It's not a magic bullet, but increasing physical activity is a positive and active strategy to help manage
depression and anxiety," says Kristin Vickers-Douglas, Ph.D., a psychologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
When you have depression or anxiety, exercising may be the last thing you think you can do. But you can overcome the inertia. See how exercise can ease depression symptoms and anxiety symptoms. Plus, get realistic tips to get started and stick with exercising.
How exercise helps depression and anxiety
Exercise has long been touted as a way to maintain physical fitness and help prevent high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases. A growing volume of research shows that exercise can also help improve symptoms of certain mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. Exercise may also help prevent a relapse after treatment for depression or anxiety.
Research suggests that it may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to significantly improve depression symptoms. But smaller amounts of activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — can improve mood in the short term.
"Small bouts of exercise may be a great way to get started if it's initially too hard to do more,"
Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.
Just how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety isn't fully understood. Some evidence suggests that exercise raises the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain. Exercise may also boost feel-good endorphins, release muscle tension, help you sleep better, and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. All of these changes in your mind and body can improve such symptoms as sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self-doubt and hopelessness.
If you exercise regularly but depression or anxiety symptoms still interfere with your daily living, seek professional help. Exercise isn't meant to replace medical treatment of depression or anxiety.
The benefits of exercise for depression and anxiety
Exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits when you have depression or anxiety. These include:
Confidence. Being physically active gives you a sense of accomplishment. Meeting goals or challenges, no matter how small, can boost self-confidence at times when you need it most. Exercise can also make you feel better about your appearance and your self-worth.
Distraction. When you have depression or anxiety, it's easy to dwell on how badly you feel. But dwelling interferes with your ability to problem solve and cope in a healthy way. Dwelling can also make depression more severe and longer lasting. Exercise can shift the focus away from unpleasant thoughts to something more pleasant, such as your surroundings or the music you enjoy listening to while you exercise.
Interactions. Depression and anxiety can lead to isolation. That, in turn, can worsen your condition. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others, even if it's just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood.
Healthy coping. Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol excessively, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping depression and anxiety will go away on their own aren't helpful coping strategies.
Article provided by Nancy M Brockett, PhD Soul Support Counseling •