Exercise the Blues Away

by A Diet Community

We all know that exercise does marvels for the body, but did you know that exercise can do wonders for the mind and emotions as well?

Numerous scientific studies have shown that exercise can help relieve depression and anxiety.

How Does Exercise Chase the Blues?

Scientists theorize that exercise helps relieve anxiety and depression by increasing the neurotransmitters in the brain which produce positive moods.

Exercise relaxes the muscles and decreases the making of cortisol which is the major stress hormone. Some researchers, like the University of Wisconsin’s William Morgan, note that exercise also distracts a person from the everyday burdens of life.

Even if you aren’t battling depression or anxiety, exercise helps to promote a more positive self-image.

One of the ways that exercise works its “magic” is by stimulating the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkilling hormones.

This makes you more relaxed and less stressed.

It also enables you to sleep better.  When you get adequate sleep both your mood and your memory will improve.

Recent research indicates that after just five minutes of aerobic activity the body begins to produce more anti-anxiety hormones. 

Exercise’s Surprising Rewards

It is amazing how many benefits even brief exercise can provide:

Escape

It is easy to become obsessed with worry, but exercising helps to take your mind off of your troubles for awhile.

After a brief escape from a problem or worrisome situation you may have a fresh perspective on how to handle it.  A new solution or way of coping may come to your mind.

If you exercise regularly you will gain physical and mental strength to deal with a chronically stressful situation.

Self-confidence

Sticking with exercise is a pro-active coping strategy which will give you a sense of accomplishment.

But, don’t think that you have to have a full-fledged, extensive formal exercise routine to accomplish this goal.

Developing simple new habits which add physical activity to your day can make a world of difference in how you feel about yourself.  For example, taking the stairs at work once a day or walking around the office during a break will give you both extra energy and a sense of accomplishment.

Empowerment

Both anxiety and depression tend to leave you feeling powerless.

This becomes a vicious cycle because the more powerless you feel the less likely you are to take charge of your life and make positive decisions.

By making the decision to add more physical activity to your life you take a positive step in the battle against depression and anxiety, rather than using a negative coping strategy such as overeating.

Social Support

In our hectic world it is very easy to become isolated even if you aren’t suffering from depression.  We may run around doing errands for others, but sometimes we simply aren’t communicating with them.

If you suffer from depression it is even easier to become withdrawn, although this is a time when you need the most support.

By exercising with others you can break this cycle.   Don’t worry, you don’t have to join an exercise class to do this.

Simple strategies like taking a short walk after dinner with your spouse or making the effort to play a game outside with the kids or grandkids one or two times a week can help you reconnect with your family.

Connect with one or two people at your workplace and make a promise to walk around the office together on a break or to walk to the park and have a light lunch outdoors together a few times a week.

Tips from Exercise Experts

The very idea of exercising may be overwhelming if you aren’t used to much physical activity.

Exercise experts suggest these tips for beginning any exercise activity:

  • Exercise should be enjoyable, not drudgery.   Pick something that you like do and it will be easier to stay with it on a routine basis.
  • If you are going to engage in a different kind of physical activity other than what you usually do, ask your doctor before beginning.   For example, if you have been very sedentary, suddenly engaging in vigorous physical activity may not be appropriate.  Your doctor may advise you to start a gradual walking program instead.  Your health professional can also advise you if you need to be extra careful with your joints and avoid certain types of physical activity, such as high impact aerobics.
  • Be sure to tell the doctor the type of exercise you are planning; for example, if you have high blood pressure, your doctor will likely be glad to see you start a walking program, but may advise against a heavy weightlifting program.
  • Remember that exercise is a growth process.  Begin with a simple, easy plan and build up to more activity gradually as you gain more strength and stamina. For example, try incorporating an extra five minutes of walking into your day if you aren’t used to much physical activity; after a week or two, build up to ten minutes of extra walking each day and increase with time.  Use how you feel as your guideline, not how you think you should be progressing or how much someone else is progressing.

With just some simple steps you can begin to incorporate exercise into your day.  You will feel better and enjoy life more.

While exercise is a wonderful tool to improve your mood, it is not a cure for all cases of depression or anxiety.  If you are suffering from life-altering anxiety and/or depression you may benefit from counseling and/or a support group in addition to exercise.


Shawnee November 28, 2012 at 12:32 am

I find exercising to be a great way to clear my mind and gain a new perspective on whatever is stressing me out. I enjoying walking or swimming. It gives me an opportunity to think things over and I’m getting a good workout in.

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