In general, symptoms of depression and anxiety improve with exercise. Here are realistic tips that will help you get started and stay motivated.
If you suffer from depression or anxiety, it may seem like the last thing you want to do is exercise. However, when you manage to feel motivated, exercise can make a big difference.
Exercising helps prevent and improve various health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis.
Research on depression, anxiety and exercise has shown that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also improve mood and decrease anxiety.
Although the relationship between depression, anxiety and exercise is not entirely clear, exercising and other forms of physical activity certainly relieves symptoms of depression or anxiety, and can make you feel better. Exercise can also prevent depression and anxiety from coming back when you start feeling better.
How does physical activity help reduce depression and anxiety?
Exercising on a regular basis can relieve depression and anxiety as follows:
It releases endorphins that generate well-being, natural brain chemicals that have an effect similar to cannabis (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can increase the feeling of well-being
Free your mind from worries so you can get out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety
In addition, exercising on a regular basis provides many psychological and emotional benefits. It can help you to the following:
- Gain confidence Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even modest ones, can stimulate self-confidence. Getting fit can also make you feel better about your physical appearance.
- Increase your social interaction. Exercise and physical activity can give you the chance to meet other people and to socialize. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting people as you walk through your neighborhood can improve your mood.
- Coping with problems in a healthy way. Doing positive things to control depression or anxiety is a healthy strategy to cope with this. If you try to feel better drinking alcohol, you become obsessed with how you feel or wait for depression or anxiety to disappear, the symptoms may get worse.
- Is the only option a structured exercise program?
- Some research shows that physical activity, such as regular walks – not just formal exercise programs – can help improve mood. Physical activity and exercise are not the same, but both are beneficial to health.
- “Physical activity” is any activity that causes muscles to work and requires energy, such as work, housework or recreational activities.
- “Exercise” is a planned, structured and repetitive body movement to improve or maintain physical fitness.
- The word “exercise” can make you think about running through the gym. But the exercise includes a wide variety of activities that increase the level of activity to help you feel better.
Other activities such as running, lifting weights, playing basketball and other physical exercises that make the heart pump more can certainly be useful. But it can also be physical activity, such as doing gardening, washing the car, going around the block or practicing other less intense activities. Any physical activity that lifts you off the couch and makes you move can improve your mood.
It is not necessary to do all the exercise or other physical activity at once. Think about exercise differently and look for ways to add small amounts of activity throughout the day. For example, use the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little further from work to do a short walk. If you live near work, consider cycling.
How much is enough?
Doing at least 30 minutes of exercise per day between three and five times per week can significantly improve symptoms of depression or anxiety. However, shorter sessions of physical activity – between 10 and 15 minutes each – can make a difference. Improving your mood can take less training time if you do more intense activities, such as running or cycling.
The benefits of physical activity for mental health will last only if you keep them long term; This is another reason why you should look for activities that you enjoy.
How can I start … and stay motivated?
Starting a regular exercise or physical activity routine and maintaining it can be difficult. The measures mentioned below can help:
- Identify what you enjoy doing. Find out what kind of physical activity you are most likely to do, and think about when and how you would be more likely to do it. For example, would you be more likely to dedicate yourself to gardening at night, to start the day with a jog, or to ride a bike or play basketball with your children after school? Do something you enjoy so you can accomplish it.
- Seek the support of a mental health professional. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional to guide and support you. Talk about an exercise or physical activity program, and how it would adapt to your overall treatment plan.
- Set reasonable goals. Your goal does not have to be to walk for an hour five days a week. Think realistically about what you can do and start progressively. Adjust the plan to your own needs and capabilities, instead of setting unrealistic guidelines that you probably don’t meet.
- Do not think of exercise or physical activity as if it were a task. If exercising is just another “duty” in your life that you think you do not fulfill, you will associate it with failure. Instead, think about your exercise or physical activity plan in the same way that you think about your therapy sessions or your medications: as one of the tools that help you improve.
- Analyze your obstacles. Discover what prevents you from being physically active or exercising. For example, if you feel embarrassed, you may want to exercise at home. If you meet goals better with a partner, look for a friend to exercise or someone who enjoys the same activities as you. If you don’t have money to spend on exercise equipment, do something for free, such as walking regularly. If you think about what prevents you from being physically active or exercising, you may be able to find an alternative solution.
- Prepare for setbacks and obstacles. Give yourself credit for every step you take in the right direction, no matter how small. If you do not exercise one day, that does not mean that you cannot maintain an exercise routine or that you could abandon it. Just try again the next day. Fulfill it
- Should I see my doctor?
- Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program to make sure it is safe for you. Talk to your doctor to discover the type of activity, the amount of exercise and the level of intensity appropriate for you. Your doctor will consider the medications you take and the conditions you present. It can also give you useful recommendations on how to get started and stay motivated.
If you exercise regularly but the symptoms of depression or anxiety still interfere with your daily life, consult your doctor or mental health professional. Exercise and physical activity are excellent ways to relieve symptoms of depression or anxiety, but they are not substitutes for conversational therapy (psychotherapy) or medications.