Exercise is one of the most beneficial and natural forms of self-therapy in the face of anxiety and depression. Not only that but when you commit to working out regularly, it becomes a preventative and reduces the level of returning symptoms.
Neuroscience has proven that when we are proactive and engage in any level of exercise, endorphins (or adrenaline) are released into the brain, which gives our mood an instant pick-me-up!
I’ll be the first to advocate the benefits. My biggest motive for regular fitness was mainly because I saw an improvement in my mental health. Don’t get me wrong, physical health is equally important and should be highly regarded. But I noticed right away that when I would go for a run in the mornings my mind was clearer, my thoughts were more rational, I had a healthier level of confidence and better resilience against defeating thoughts.
Oh and it also helps you sleep like a baby.
That being said, here are 9 ways exercise will benefit you if you’re dealing with depression or anxiety.
Exercise acts as a sedative.
Endorphins reduce the perception of pain. According to WebMD , “The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines. However, unlike with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body’s endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.” Basically, it makes one great, natural antidepressant.
Exercise increases motivation and mental strength.
Let’s be honest, so much of physical fitness is in your head. Whether you bust out that extra set or make up your mind to take one more mile, you have to overcome the limiting beliefs of your abilities in your mind first. This promotes mental strength and the fact that you can push past what you feel.
Not only does exercise boost current moods, but it prevents long term depression.
According to a research study posted by APA, “Exercise seems not only important for treating depression, but also in preventing relapse.” After following up with patients in a case study they found that those who continued to exercise upon their one-year follow-up had lower depression scores than those who were inactive.
Exercise can help improve sensitivity to anxiety and deflect a state of panic.
Anxiety causes our nervous system to jump into natural defenses of fight-or-flight. These sensations of fear make it more likely to develop a thinking pattern of panic. However, exercise can become a useful tool to filter those sensations into a healthier expression. The APA article also quotes that, “regular workouts might help people prone to anxiety become less likely to panic” (Otto & Smits 2011).
Becoming familiar with physical stress can help foster better self-control.
Many of the same physical symptoms experienced with anxiety are similar to working out. High heart rates, sweating, shortness of breath are just a few examples. When you become familiar with how to regulate your body during regular exercise this can also foster a better self-awareness of how to control your breathing and physical symptoms in the face of anxiety.
Exercise can improve social contact.
And social well-being is a major key to our mental health. Whether you decide to join a class, run with a friend or get another accountability partner, these are healthy forms of necessary social interaction!
Exercise encourages proactive behavior.
Sometimes determining to take the first step toward recovery is, in itself, the biggest step. Just by deciding to get in the mindset to do something and assume responsibility for your health is a step to be proud of! Being proactive takes the thoughts that were keeping us bound and pushes them forward. It’s the mentality that says, “I am stepping outside of myself and getting past these hang-ups!”
And best of all, it’s free. Unless you sign up for that class or gym membership, but hey, it’s still totally worth it. So what are you waiting for?!
Here are 21 Ways to Get Motivated and Start Working Out!
- Get up 30 minutes earlier each morning to go on a run.
- Hit the track at a local school.
- Bike riding or a cycling class.
- Cardio Kickboxing.
- Join a dance class.
- Join a community sports team.
- Jump Rope
- Start taking the stairs!
- Rock Climbing.
- Join a gym
- Get one of those dance revolution games from home.
- Floor exercises- lunges, crunches, squats, push-ups etc; 20 minutes each day.
- Park farther away from the office.
- Walk to get lunch.
- Sign up for a marathon fundraiser and get motivated to prepare!
- Volunteer for something like Habitat for Humanity and put in some labor for a cause!
- Walk the dogs at a local shelter.
Find something that suits you and commit to your recovery!
Resource: Online Counseling & Therapy
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