I’ve got a gym membership again, for the first time in several years. It’s not like I haven’t been working out in all that time (well….), it’s just that my workouts have been walks, bike rides, hikes, kayaking and playing golf. Which is great (when I actually go do those things) but I need to make a definitive commitment to become more active and to make sure I’m focusing on my health. And not just my physical health, but my mental health. Physical activity and exercise is an effective way to treat some of the symptoms of depression.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
How does exercise help depression and anxiety?
Regular exercise probably helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include:
- Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids)
- Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
- Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects
Regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits, too. It can help you:
- Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
- Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
- Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.