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Exercise May be a Key to Reducing Depression and Anxiety

Do you find your mood dipping often, sometimes for no easily identifiable reason? Do you sometimes feel stuck in a low emotional space that it’s difficult to get out of it? If you answered yes, you are not alone. These may be temporary shifts, or they may be symptoms of anxiety and depression, which affect millions of Americans daily.

Antidepressant medications are some of the most prescribed drugs in this country, with one in six Americans taking some form of psychiatric medication.

With the fast-paced, multi-faceted and demanding lives most people live, it’s easy to see how anxiety and depression can become issues, even when things are "normal". Between endless work pressures, trying to balance work and home life, and very little time to take care of yourself, feelings of overwhelm and stress can creep in. Additionally, trauma can trigger or aggravate anxiety and depression.

The good news is that there are somenatural steps you can take to help prevent or lessen anxiety and depression. Leading the way is exercise, and it’s more powerful than you may think when it comes to improving mood. Exercise is not a cure for mental health issues, but it can be a very useful tool in the battle against them.

How Exercise is Great for Anxiety and Depression

Exercise is not only great for overall health, it is excellent for your mental health as well. If you’ve ever been into running, then chances are you have experienced that “runner’s high” during and after. This has to do with those feel-good endorphins that are released during and after exercise. These endorphins are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and can help combat feelings of stress, improve sleep, and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

Exercise is obviously excellent for your physical health as well, and when you are feeling better physically you are more likely to feel better mentally. It’s all about this mind-body connection that helps people naturally get a hold on symptoms of anxiety and depression.

There is also something about executing a healthy habit we know is good for us. When it comes to exercise, it’s so easy to miss a gym day or put it on the back burner, but that can lead to regret. However, most people do not regret getting a good workout or moving their bodies.  When you set aside time to take care of yourself, and you make it a conscious and healthy habit, it feels really good. Getting some form of exercise in on as many days of the week as possible is an excellent way to take care of yourself.

Finally, exercise is extremely important when you are dealing with stress. When you are stressed, your body is likely depleted, and you may be having a hard time focusing on completing tasks. Studies have found that exercise can help reduce fatigue while also boosting concentration. If you have a stressful job, getting daily exercise in before work is a great way to start the day and help boost your concentration while lowering the stress hormone, cortisol.

What are the Best Forms of Exercise for Anxiety & Depression?

When it comes to what kind of exercise you should try, it all comes down to what you enjoy. When YOU pick the type of activity you’ll be doing, you will be more likely to stick with it, which is often the hardest part. Don’t choose something that feels like a chore. If you hate going to the gym, don’t go to the gym! Instead, sign up for a yoga class, or do an at-home workout video. Do something you look forward to each day and you will be more likely to stick to it, and get more out of it.

Here are some great ways to get your daily exercise that doesn’t necessarily involve spending hours at the gym.

  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Taking a fitness class
  • Bicycling
  • Walking or Hiking
  • Jogging
  • Walking the dogs

It’s so important to remember that getting enough exercise each day is also not an all-or-nothing approach to wellness. If you can only manage 20 minutes per day, that’s great! Everyone must start somewhere, so don’t feel like intensity or time is the only marker of success. Start with what you can do and work your way up. The more you do, the better you will feel, and the more you will want to move your body. The goal is to exercise enough to support stress-reduction and to get those positive endorphins flowing to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. Do what works best for you, and start to feel the difference both physically and mentally. It’s powerful medicine!

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