Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting nearly 40 million Americans.  Major depression is also prevalent — over 16 million people experienced a depressive episode last year. While therapy and medication can be pivotal to treating both anxiety and depression, research shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can ease the symptoms of both.  For some people, exercise works as well as antidepressant.

 

How does exercise help depression?

Most notably, exercise releases endorphins, which are powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your mental health and make you feel good. It also serves as a distraction to break the cycle of negative thoughts that feed and grow depression.

 

How does exercise help anxiety?

Exercise relieves stress and mental pressure.  Even mild physical activity boosts can boost energy and focus.  The release of endorphins eases tension and nerves, and enhances well-being. Anything that gets you moving can help, and it’s even better if you can connect in the moment.

 

Other benefits of regular exercise for anxiety and depression:

  • Getting in shape can help you gain more confidence and feel good about yourself.
  • If you choose to exercise through a gym or class, you get the added benefit of social interaction. Studies have shown that face-to-face interactions can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and can be an important part of anxiety disorder and depression recovery.
  • Exerciseis a planned, repetitive activity.  Adding structure into your life is important to feeling grounded and in control.

 

How to get started:

If you suffer from anxiety or depression, the thought of putting on a pair of running shoes and working out is daunting to say the very least.  It’s important not to stress yourself out further — start slow.  For example, take a walk a few days a week and gradually build up to running.