How Exercise Can Relieve Stress, Depression And Anxiety

How Exercise Can Relieve Stress, Depression And Anxiety

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Are you stressed or depressed? Modern life is filled with stressors, work, school, kids and traffic, that can cause feelings of overwhelm and hopelessness. While many may turn to medication as treatment, there are more natural and healthy approaches to dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. Healthy alternatives for your depression and anxiety include:

  1. Counseling – Simply talking things out, unloading, can be an effective way to relieve your stress, depression and anxiety. Share your problems with family, friends, a counselor or therapist.
  2. Social Interaction – You may be tempted to hide from the world in your room, but social interaction provides valuable support in overcoming stress or depression. Join groups, get involved in sports, volunteer at church, etc.
  3. Alternative Therapies – Alternative therapies including aromatherapy (essential oils), massage and herbal teas may prove beneficial in relieving stress and reducing the symptoms of depression.
  4. Exercise – Regular, moderate intensity exercise like jogging, boxing, kickboxing or swimming improves not only your health, but also your attitude and outlook. Exercise releases hormones and neurotransmitters that reduce stress, and improves your self esteem.

Growing research supports the use of exercise to combat the effects of stress and anxiety. In a statement by the American Psychological Association, “Physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people…exercise gives the body a way of dealing with stress before it becomes destructive.”

Exercise has been shown to:

  • Improve well being.
  • Increases stress tolerance.
  • Relieve physical pain and discomfort.
  • Improve physical health and appearance.
  • Boost self-esteem and self-confidence.

Additional benefits of exercise include a feeling of accomplishment, improved energy and less fatigue, increased productivity, greater concentration, better (more efficient) sleep, and a feeling of satisfaction and improved outlook on life.

The problem with exercise is getting started and staying motivated to stick with your exercise program, especially true for those individuals suffering emotional stress and depression. Sometimes a health club or gym is the last place you want to be if you are depressed or anxious. Consider exercising at home or hiring a personal trainer to help you develop the best training plan to reach your fitness goals as you relieve your stress, anxiety and depression.
Anxiety and exercise. Anxiety is a reaction to stress with no stimuli, or worrying about what might happen (or not happen). Your body reacts to anxiety physically, mentally and psychologically and increases your production and release of adrenaline as part of the fight or flight response. One way that exercise can reduce or eliminate anxiety is by burning part of this overabundance of adrenaline as you run on a treadmill, skip rope in your boxing class, or perform suspension exercises with your TRX.

Depression and exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise has a variety of psychological benefits for relieving the symptoms and effects of depression including:

  • Confidence – Physical activity and completing a workout gives you a sense of accomplishment. By meeting goals or challenges, regardless of how small, can boost your self-confidence at a time when you need it most. The physical results of your hard work can also make you feel better about your appearance, improving your self-esteem.
  • Distraction – Exercise helps take your mind off of your problems. When you’re depressed, it’s all too easy to dwell on the bad things which interferes with your ability to solve problems and cope. Dwelling on problems can also make your depression more severe and last longer. Exercise shifts the focus away from unpleasant thoughts to something more pleasant, or at least more challenging.
  • Social Interaction – Depression and anxiety often lead to isolation, hiding from the world and your problems which can worsen your depression. Exercise provides a chance to meet and socialize with other people in the gym or studio, even if it’s just exchanging a greeting.
  • Promotes healthy coping – Doing something positive like exercising is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to forget your problems by drinking alcohol, dwelling on your problems, or simply hoping your depression and anxiety will go away aren’t healthy coping methods.
  • Promotes new neuronsExercise promotes new neurons growth in the areas of the brain that deal with memory, learning, attention, and survival. Exercise increases the blood flow and oxygenation of the brain, stimulating this new growth of neurons that can be used by the brain to create new positive behaviors, habits, and skills.

Which exercises are best? Most any exercise will help reduce stress and anxiety, but exercises that increase your heart rate (cardio) are most effective more quickly. Calming exercise programs like yoga and Pilates that involve meditation, relaxation and breath control reduce stress and anxiety quickly. Find exercise programs that work for you and participate regularly and often, at home in your garage or in your neighborhood gym. Intensity is not as important as frequency in relation to stress and anxiety relief. Intense exercise will burn more calories faster, but brisk walking is just as effective as running a 5K relative to stress and anxiety relief.

“I don’t have time.” – The number one excuse preventing people from exercising. You can overcome this excuse by exercising in shorter increments. Even brief bouts of physical activity offer positive benefits. If you don’t have time for a 30-minute walk, take three 10-minute walks spread throughout your day instead. What’s most important is making regular exercise a part of your lifestyle.

Make it fun. Find a fitness activity you enjoy, try new things. Sign up for boxing or kickboxing, or a boot camp or yoga class. Hire a knowledgeable personal trainer to help you find the exercise program to help you relieve your stress, anxiety and depression.

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