Have you ever noticed when you sit around home all day you tend to feel blue?
The Psychological Benefits of Exercise for Anxiety and Depression
You would have often heard 30 minutes of moderate exercise, several times a week recommended for your physical health but exercise can give your mental health a real boost, helping to combat depression. Exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve mood, encourage better sleep, increase motivation, and up your energy levels – all of which contribute to a healthier state of mind and overall well being.
What are the benefits of regular exercise?
Breaking the depressive cycle – exercise provides a distraction from negative thoughts that feed into anxiety disorders or depression. It can help you take your mind away from worries and allows you to focus on being present.
Calming influence – Increasing your body temperature through physical exercise has been shown to have calming effects.
Confidence booster – Getting in shape and achieving exercise goals gives a boost in self-confidence for a more positive outlook.
Grow your social network – Exercise groups, classes at the gym or sports teams allow you to meet new people and give you an easy way to socialise. Even if you are just walking the neighbourhood, it’s a great chance to say hello and improve your mood.
How much exercise?
The normal recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3-5 days a week has been shown to be effective in battling depression. However much smaller amounts can make a big difference, even just 10-15 minutes of rigorous activity like running or cycling can improve your mental health. Keep in mind that the benefits of exercise are greatest over time – so finding something you love doing and turning that into a routine is the best way to see improvements over the long term.
Structured Exercise vs Activity
When we say ‘exercise’ it brings up images of sweating it out at that gym for hours, or a boot camp where you’ll be heaving weights and running laps. These are examples of structured exercise programs that are planned and repetitive in order to improve physical fitness.
But really anything that contracts your muscles and uses up energy is exercise. This can include a range of easier, everyday activities that boost your fitness and keep your mental health in check like gardening, walking, housework or any leisure activity that gets your body moving. Some suggestions would be push ups, sit ups, if you have free weights then go try some lunges, if you have a pull up bar then check out this pull up routine.
Whether you like to push yourself hard to take it easier – research shows that all forms of regular exercise will have positive outcomes for your mind and mood. To get started, think about small changes to include exercise in your everyday life, perhaps that is parking further away from work and walk to rest of the way, take the stairs whenever you can or dusting off your bicycle for an after work ride.
Getting Started with Exercise
Overcoming a lack of motivation can be difficult. Getting starting and sticking with an exercise routine is often a challenge but here are a few helpful steps that you can take:
- Discover what you love. Get involved with your kids, walk the dog or work in the garden. Try out some new things to get your body moving, when you find something you truly enjoy it will be less of a chore and more of a reward.
- Find support. Talk with your doctor or care team to find an exercise plan that fits in with your overall treatment plan.
- Start small with achievable goals. Running a marathon is probably not a reasonable goal so break up your plan into smaller, reachable targets. That way you are more likely to stay on track and not get discouraged. For example, you could start out taking walks a few times a week, then gradually increase your activity.
- Be prepared for obstacles. Barriers will present themselves and some days you might fail. This is normal for everyone so remember tomorrow is a new day so just try again.
Should I see my doctor?
Whenever starting a new exercise routine, its best to check in with your Doctor. They can review your overall health, medications and history to let you know how much exercise and what kind of intensity will be safe for you. Exercise is one tool in the fight against depression and are not necessarily a replacement for psychotherapy or medication, if your symptoms are overwhelming or interfering with your daily life, see a Doctor and mental health provider as soon as possible.
After Workout Nutrition
When you are done working out you want to replenish your body with vital nutrients, I suggest doing this by having a recovery drink aka ‘health shake’ basically you want to get a decent drink blender and add some greens, some fruit and some superfoods, blend it all together with some coconut water and you are good to go!