Exercise is clinically proven to help people who suffer from both anxiety and depression. When you engage in exercise, you improve both your physical and mental health. Not only does exercise reduce inflammation but it also assists in positive changes in the brain such as neuron regrowth. When you exercise, it releases “happy hormones” such as dopamine and endorphins. Additionally, exercising is a healthy distraction or outlet that can be used to free your mind of stressful thoughts.
Exercise can help with anxiety because it allows you to focus on something other than the anxious feelings you are experiencing. Additionally, it assists in relieving both tension and stress in your body. It can increase your energy levels both physically and mentally. Exercise is correlated with a reduction of anxiety because when you focus on the movement of your body, it allows you to escape from your internal racing thoughts. Think about how you focus on the things around you when you run or the physical feeling of your breath getting increasingly heavier. When you redirect your attention to your body, you are already allowing other parts of your mind to relax and more specifically, the central nervous system.
The following are specific exercises that can help reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms:
1. Walking/Running: This activity is important because the hormone GABA is released. GABA’s main job is to reduce the activity in your central nervous system which is responsible for causing anxiety. The release of GABA brings on a sense of calmness. In addition, when you walk through a park, you are engaging with nature—your mind focuses on the environment and sense of calmness may come over you.
2. Cardio: Cardio is beneficial because it releases endorphins, boosts dopamine and norepinephrine, and releases toxins. These neurotransmitters and chemicals can lead to a feeling of euphoria or happiness.
3. Dancing: When you dance, you release endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These neurotransmitters will help you feel relaxed, happy, and calm.
4. Yoga: Yoga can be helpful for anxiety and depression due to its mind and body altering effects. Yoga can be viewed as a form of meditation. Additionally, the body positions you participate in force your attention to be redirected to your body and in turn relaxing your mind.
Each person may find that they benefit differently in terms of the types of exercise and frequency amount—in order to experience relief from their anxiety and depressive symptoms. Some people may want to engage in a daily physical activity while others maybe less so. Each case will be different and dependent on your specific symptoms, level of severity, and other interventions you are practicing. Exercise is not a guaranteed cure for anxiety and depression but can be one of the tools you use towards reducing symptoms.