"It's not a magic bullet, but increasing physical activity is a positive and active strategy to help manage depression and anxiety." --- Kristin Vickers-Douglas
When you have depression or anxiety, exercising may be the last thing you think you can do. But you can overcome the inertia.
Exercise has long been touted as a way to maintain physical fitness and help prevent high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases.
A growing volume of research shows that exercise can also help improve symptoms of certain mental health conditions--- including depression and anxiety.
Research suggests that it may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to significantly improve depression symptoms. But smaller amounts of activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — can improve mood in the short term.
"Small bouts of exercise may be a great way to get started if it's initially too hard to do more," said Dr. Vickers-Douglas, Ph.D., a psychologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
Just how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety isn't fully understood. Some evidence suggests that exercise raises the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain.
Exercise may also boost feel-good endorphins, release muscle tension, help you sleep better, and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Physical activity also increases body temperature, which may have calming effects.
All of these changes in your mind and body can improve life quality.
The Mayo Clinic identifies several highly positive exercise results--- gaining confidence, taking your mind off your worries, creating more social interaction, and coping in a healthy way.
Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. (Getting in shape improves your self-image, you feel better about your appearance.)
Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression. Also, exercise breaks the cell of isolation, it gives you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
Drinking alcohol, or dwelling on how blue you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on their own, all lead to worsening symptoms, putting you ever deeper into the emotional hole. Life-damaging symptoms--- sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self-doubt and hopelessness--- should be the alarm that wakes you up.
Combined with the right treatment regimen, exercise can be the best pro-active reaction you can have, when the Blues threaten your quality of life.
More amazingly, researchers have found that your own exercise may also help prevent a relapse, following medical, clinical, and drug treatment, for depression or anxiety.
Doing something positive, taking charge, empowers you. It cuts through the sense of helplessness.
Your own power to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. A regular exercise routine retrains your mind to fight back against the Blues!