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Combating Anxiety & Depression with Exercise

Can exercise really help with anxiety and depression? This question has been at the forefront of numerous research studies and discussions among mental health professionals. Good news! Overwhelming evidence suggests that incorporating exercise into our daily routine can indeed contribute to alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression. Certain exercise routines have been recommended for individuals looking to experience the mental health benefits of physical activity. Let's get into it and explore the science .

Personal trainer finn glenn on yoga mat outdoors with hex dumbbell in left hand

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that exercise has a significant impact on reducing symptoms of depression. The researchers compared exercise to antidepressant medication and discovered that both treatments were equally effective in reducing depressive symptoms. In fact, exercise was shown to improve mood in as few as four weeks, which is comparable to the benefits often obtained from medication. It is worth noting that exercise has the added advantage of not harboring any notable side effects associated with pharmaceutical interventions.

Exercise has also proven to be an influential factor in the reduction of anxiety. A review published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry analyzed multiple studies and concluded that regular exercise can significantly decrease anxiety levels, with the effects being more pronounced in individuals with clinical anxiety disorders. The review outlined that both aerobic exercise, such as running or swimming, and non-aerobic exercise, such as resistance training or yoga, were effective in reducing anxiety symptoms.

So, what types of exercise should individuals incorporate into their routine to help combat anxiety and depression? Here are a few recommendations:

4 men rowing at sunset near bridge with Finn Glenn

1. Aerobic exercise: Engaging in activities like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming for at least 30 minutes, three to five times a week, can greatly contribute to reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Aerobic exercises increase the heart rate and release endorphins, also known as the feel-good hormones, which ultimately promote a positive mood.

2. Resistance training: Incorporating strength training exercises using weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises (e.g., push-ups, squats, lunges) has proven to be beneficial for mental health. This type of exercise releases endorphins and has a positive impact on self-esteem and body image, important factors in managing anxiety and depression.

3. Mind-body exercises: Practices such as yoga, tai chi, or Pilates can help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms through their combination of physical movement, breathing exercises, and mental focus. These exercises promote relaxation, stress reduction, and improved self-awareness.

fit man in Vietnam on cliff doing hand stand

It is important to remember that starting gradually and finding activities one enjoys is key to maintaining an exercise routine. Consistency rather than intensity is a major factor in reaping the mental health benefits of exercise. Opting for activities that can be done in natural settings, such as outdoor walks or hikes, may provide additional benefits through exposure to sunlight and nature.

While exercise can play a significant role in managing anxiety and depression, it is important to note that it should not replace professional treatment. It can be a valuable complementary approach, working alongside therapy and medication when needed.

The scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the idea that exercise can be an effective strategy for managing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Engaging in regular aerobic exercise, resistance training, and mind-body exercises can significantly improve mood and reduce anxiety levels. So, lace up your shoes, find activities you enjoy, and start reaping the mental health benefits of exercise today.


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