You already know that exercising is good for you. But did you also know it’s great for your mind too and can help with depression, anxiety and stress?
Exercise is good for your heart and lungs, increasing strength and making you look and feel great. Exercise will improve your health physically and can change your physique, your waistline, the way your clothes fit and even add some years to your life. But that's not all that exercise does for you.
The benefits of exercise
People who exercise on a regular basis tend to do so because it gives them more energy throughout the day. It also helps them get a better night’s sleep and it makes them feel more confident in themselves. Exercise can also be a powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges.
Exercise promotes many changes in the brain such as, reduced inflammation, neural growth and can create new neural pathways that can promote feelings of calm and progress – really?
Exercise and depression
Research suggests that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication, without the associated side effects. A study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.
In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
Exercise and anxiety
Exercise can help clear a busy mind. It can act as an effective temporary anti-anxiety treatment by giving you a boost of mental energy and endorphins, allowing your mind to concentrate on the task at hand.
Research suggests that exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.
How do you get started when you’re anxious or depressed?
Making time and finding motivation to exercise can be hard enough at the best of times. When we feel depressed or anxious it can become even more challenging to motivate ourselves, even if you are aware of all the benefits. You can be zapped for energy to get out of the house, or you may feel the anxiety is too much to be in a busy gym. Find someone to go with, so that you feel less anxious about going. Set yourself small goals to begin with and work up to bigger ones.
So, what are some options we have?
Something is better than nothing. You will benefit from a 30-45min walk. Going to the gym for 15-30 minutes is a great start. You may find once you get going you uncover the energy to finish on a high. Find something you enjoy and think you will benefit from, and that you will stick to.
There’s no point in joining a dance studio if you want to lift weights. Find a club or gym that interests you and that you will enjoy. Schedule your workout at the time of day when your energy levels are at their highest. For some people this may be 6 am, for others it may be lunch time or evening, try out various times and see which suits you best.
Create an IF-THEN scenario.
An IF-THEN scenario is a plan that you have come up with that gives you a chance to combat the excuses you know you will make at the time.
For example, you have a goal ‘I will exercise twice a week, on Monday’s and Wednesday’.
IF - I missed Monday morning session because I wasn’t feeling good.
THEN - I have to exercise Monday evening.
Or “I will go to the gym for a 60min workout”.
IF - I get stuck at the office until late
THEN - I will wake up earlier tomorrow to fit it in.
There is no doubt that exercise has a huge impact on our mental health. Consistency underpins the benefits that can create a healthier and positive mind. If you are unsure on how to start your exercise journey, then get in touch.