When you are feeling anxious or depressed, exercise may be the last thing that will come into your mind. However, it can actually make a big difference in changing your mood. There are studies showing that exercise can even help treat and prevent depression.
Exercise has been proven to help ease and prevent a number of health problems such as arthritis and high blood pressure. Furthermore, research on anxiety, depression, and exercise show that the physical and psychological advantages of exercise are also beneficial in reducing and improving one’s mood.
How can exercise help ease anxiety and depression?
Although the link between exercise and depression isn’t that clear yet, there are various ways that it is thought to help ease depression.
– Exercise prompts the release of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters and endorphins) that make one feel good.
– Exercise reduces immune system chemicals that are known to worsen depression.
– Exercise increases body temperature which in turn brings forth calming effects.
Moreover, exercise has psychological and emotional benefits that can also alleviate anxiety and depression, such as:
– It can help one gain confidence.
– It can take the mind off worries.
– It can help someone get better social relationships.
– It can help one cope in a healthy manner.
What kind of exercises are the best for easing and preventing anxiety and depression?
There are various forms of exercise that can be practiced by anyone who wants to reduce, eliminate, and prevent depression. These are under various categories and can be performed with or without the guidance of a trainer.
1. Aerobic and endurance exercises – Regular aerobic exercises can not only do wonders for the body but for the mind as well. While the first few sessions can prove to be the hardest, it will become more exciting and enjoyable through time. Aerobic and endurance exercises can bring remarkable changes to one’s metabolism, heart, and spirits. It can exhilarate and help an individual relax at the same time, and offer stimulation and calmness, which can in turn counter depression. Examples of aerobic exercises include jogging, walking, biking, hiking, and jumping rope, among others.
2. Breathing exercises – A great example of this form of exercise is yoga. Even without controlled breathing and formal meditation, the muscle-stretching characteristic of yoga poses can already reduce stress. While “full yoga” is ideal, one can also perform simple breathing exercises and still reap benefits. Ultimately, shallow, rapid, and erratic breathing is a telltale sign of stress. If this can be countered by slow, deep, and regular breathing, an individual can eventually relax and prevent anxiety and depression from taking over.
This form of exercise can simply be done by breathing in slowly and deeply while pushing the stomach out so the diaphragm is put to optimal use. Next, the breath is held briefly and then exhaled slowly. The sequence should be repeated for five to 10 times, depending on the extent of the feeling of stress and anxiety.
3. Progressive muscular relaxation – When one is undergoing stress, it is possible that their muscles become tensed and tight, too. Through learning how to relax the muscles, one can use his body to drive away stress and related emotions and thoughts. Muscle relaxation, however, may take longer to learn than breathing exercises. Performing such exercises takes more time as well. But even if it requires more effort, it can definitely be a vital part of an individual’s anxiety and depression control program.
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