How Physical Activity Helps with...

How Physical Activity Helps with Depression and Anxiety

by Laura Sciarpelletti
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Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand and are all too common. If you have been wise enough to see a councilor and talk about the issues you deal with, oftentimes this can help to alleviate the symptoms. Nowadays antidepressant and antianxiety medication is prescribed rapidly—some need this, but others may want to look into other ways of dampening their anxiety levels. One sure-fire way that helps combat these things, is getting enough exercise. Never a bad thing to do, exercise holds special powers for those who struggle with depression. All you need is to work up enough motivation to begin. Oftentimes, this is the hardest part—but the more times you exercise, the easier it will be to work up that motivation.

Chemical changes

Neurotransmitters, endorphins and cannabinoids are all feel-good brain chemicals that exercise helps to release. These reduce immune system chemicals that make depression worse. Furthermore, increasing your body temperature through exercise will have calming effects on you. Expect less thoughts racing through your head at any given moment.


Exercise blocks the cycle of negative thoughts and takes you away from your worries. Maybe the distraction is that you are struggling physically or are focusing on the activity itself—either way, this is a focus on something other than stress or sadness, and that is a win. You can see exercise as medicine rather than a chore.

Gain confidence

Achieving goals that you have made for yourself and overcoming challenges builds up a sense of self-worth. Oftentimes depression and anxiety are derived from insecurity and self-hatred. Pushing yourself to meet your goals will prove something to the person who matters most…YOU. Also, being in shape can make you feel better about your appearance. While appearance should not be the focus when seeking to overcome depression and anxiety, it can be a side effect of the physical activity.

Social Interaction

If you find that a lot of your depression comes from being solitary, join a group exercise program. Being in a social setting can also calm anxiety if it is linked with a goal. Here is a tip: begin your venture into exercise as a means to cope with problems in a healthy way on your own. When you have done it for a few weeks and have experienced its distractive qualities, introduce yourself to a social setting. You may find that your anxiety has begun to deplete, even if only a little.

Have a plan

Deciding to exercise is one thing, but those who struggle with depression and anxiety require a plan—a personal expectation—to help the motivation process. Find out what normally stops you from exercising and find an alternative. Speaking to a mental health provider about developing a plan may give you some solid ideas, as they will be able to give some insightful pointers. Also, be prepared for setbacks and DO NOT punish yourself. Understand that setbacks happen because you are imperfect, and there is always the next try.

Improved sleep

Physical activity provides you with energy later on, but also wears you out. When you do not exercise, there is a lot of unused energy and that can cause restlessness that leads to depression and anxiety. Using up that energy will clear your mind and relax your body, leading to restful and deep sleeps. Sleep is desperately important to strong mental health.

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