Can Physical Activity Reduce Depression and Anxiety? | Guest Post by Kevin Jones

Depression is a major world health issue due to it’s continually rising prevalence. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the U.S. While depression and anxiety are separate disorders, oftentimes they occur simultaneously. Exercise has been found to be one of the most effective ways to treat these conditions. It some instances, its benefits are comparable (or even better) to medications without all the side effects.

Physical activity, the best antidepressant on the market:

Staying active is so great for fighting depression and anxiety due to the way it stimulates the body’s natural pathways. Low levels of serotonin (the feel-good hormone), high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), and other hormone imbalances are associated with depression and anxiety issues. Exercise naturally boosts the body’s feel-good hormones and increases blood flows to areas of the brain that may be affected. Ultimately, this creates an improved sense of well-being.

How to maximize the benefits of physical activity:

What’s the best way to treat mental health with exercise?  The answer is simple:  just get moving. Exercise at least 150 minutes per week at moderate intensity or for 75 minutes at a vigorous intensity, spreading it over 3-5 days per week. Here are ways to take full advantage of the benefits.

  • Find an activity that you think you might enjoy (or learn to enjoy) will help keep you motivated.
  • Join a gym, fitness class, or an online exercise group.
  • Set up a home gym.
  • Go for a walk at a local track, neighborhood, or park.
  • Socializing is another great mood booster and way to stay accountable, so invite a friend or family member to join you.
  • Consider getting outside for the additional mood-boosting benefits of fresh air and sunshine.

Ways to start moving right now

  • Go for a 10-30 minute walk in the morning or during a lunch break.
  • Add extra bouts of activity to your day, such as riding your bike to work or run errands, taking the stairs, parking at the back of a parking lot, or standing instead of sitting at your desk.
  • Exercise on commercial breaks when watching TV, doing crunches, marching in place, jumping jacks, or any other simple moves.
  • Ride a stationary cardio machine (bike, treadmill, or elliptical) when you need to multitask, such as reading, phone calls, or watching TV.
  • Turn on some music and dance.
  • Add intention to your daily chores. Tighten your abs, scrub a little harder, or squat a little deeper to reach a tough spot or put something away.

It doesn’t have to be complicated

When seeking help for depression and anxiety, exercise might seem like a daunting task. Thus, starting with small actionable steps can make the whole process less overwhelming. As you start noticing changes in your mental health, you will gain the motivation and momentum you need to progress further. For now, simply get that heart rate up and sweat pouring and start feeling better today.