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How Exercise Helps Relieve Depression and Anxiety

Exercise for Depression and Anxiety

Most people are aware of the physical benefits of exercise. However, other than getting a rocking body, building muscles, increasing energy, and improving cardiovascular health, regular exercise improves mental health as well. Some of the mental health benefits of exercise include increased self-esteem and self-confidence, better sleep, improved cognitive function, relief of stress, increased relaxation, increased creativity, better addiction control, boosting of happy chemicals in the brain, improved mood, and alleviation of symptoms of mental illnesses.

Do you need the motivation to hit the gym or simply take a brisk walk? Well, these benefits should have you tying your shoelaces and heading outdoors. Regardless of your age, health and fitness shouldn’t be ignored. In today’s text, we’ll focus on how exercise helps with depression and anxiety.

Exercise with Depression

Recent studies show that physical activity can help relieve or prevent mild to moderate depression and with no side effects as with antidepressant medication. So, how does exercise help depression?

1.      Buffering the Brain

Depression limits the ability of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine to facilitate communication in the brain. This causes the brain to lose the flexibility to work its way out of a depressing situation and locks it into a negative loop of self-hate. Luckily for you, exercise fosters the production of Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is a protein that helps neurotransmitters encourage communication throughout the brain.

This can help people with depression emerge from their rut. Exercise also encourages all kinds of changes in the brain, including new activity patterns, reduced inflammation, and neural growth, all of which stimulate feelings of calm.

2.      Exercise Releases Endorphins

Endorphins are powerful brain chemicals that trigger a positive feeling in the body, which makes you feel good and energizes your spirits.

3.      Serves as a Distraction

The time you take to work out can serve as a distraction from whatever issues that may be causing depression.  Depression often manifests physically by causing appetite changes, increased pain perception, lack of sleep, reduced energy, as well as body aches, all of which can lead to less motivation to exercise. Start by getting up and moving just a little bit like taking a five-minute walk around the block.

Although you’ll begin to feel better after a few weeks of exercising, keep in mind that this is not a one-time fix, but rather, a long-term form of managing symptoms. For this reason, pick an activity that you enjoy and one that you’ll be able to sustain over time. Other than relieving depression symptoms, continued exercise can also prevent you from relapsing on drugs or alcohol.

Exercise with Anxiety

Exercise also offers many of the same benefits as anxiety medication and regular relaxation. Generally, acute onset anxiety responds better to exercise than long-standing symptoms of anxiety. When it comes to exercise and anxiety, a combination of factors comes into play. So, how does exercise help anxiety?

1.      Pumps Up Your Endorphins

Endorphins are increased every time you exercise. These feel-good brain chemicals improve mental energy, help relieve tension and stress, and enhance your overall well-being. Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress; therefore, reducing stress levels through exercise indirectly reduces anxiety symptoms.

2.      Social Interaction

Exercising offers the opportunity to socialize with others and keeps your mind off negative thoughts that may be causing anxiety. Plus, you might find solutions to whatever issues that are stressing you if you share them with others.

3.      It’s Meditation in Motion

Although anything that gets you moving can help, it’s important to add a mindfulness element to your workouts. By focusing more on your body and how it feels while exercising, you’ll be able to keep away the constant flow of negative thoughts and worries in your brain, thereby improving your condition faster.

Exercise also increases body temperature, which tends to induce a sense of calmness afterwards. This helps people with anxiety disorders calm down.

Even though exercise can help with anxiety, avoid rigorous exercises as they tend to stress the body. Anxious behavior causes the body to become overly stressed and symptomatic, and stressing it even more can only make things worse.


Getting the mental benefits of exercise is easier than you can imagine. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym or run mile after mile; even a little bit of exercise improves mental health. The more you engage in physical activity, the more energy you’ll have to do more.

While physical activity is an effective remedy for anxiety and depression, it doesn’t mean that you should give up on medication or talk therapy. If you or your loved one is suffering from any of these mental health problems, you want everything going for you to help you get better as fast as possible.



Guest Author:

Caroline Bird is a wellness lifestyle writer. Caroline loves sharing her thoughts and personal experiences related to healthcare, personal improvement, and productivity through her writing. She currently writes for Define Health and Fitness which helps others to achieve their fitness goals physically and mentally.  Connect with Caroline on Twitter @BCarolinebird12


Photo Credit: Pexels

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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