By: Emily Musielewicz
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2018) “322 million people worldwide live with depression” and “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older.” In recent scientific studies, exercise has been proven to make a difference to individuals with anxiety and depression that is comparable to their mental health medications. Brain function increases with the help of exercise. Inactivity has more negative effects on depression and anxiety. The positive repercussions are easily obtainable. Mental health and physical health go hand in hand.
According to a journal in The Primary Care Companion (Sharma, Madaan, and Petty, 2006), “Higher risk of chronic diseases is associated with sedentary and medication side effect”. This means that lack of movement in a daily routine has been often detrimental to your health. Although physical activity is not proven to cure mental health conditions, being active can have similar results as medication without the negative side effects. In as little as 30 minutes of exercise, three days a week, individuals can start seeing improvements in their health. Such improvements include improved concentration and mood, to more motivated and better memory.
Depression and anxiety have greatly to do with hormone production, and being active helps produce more beneficial hormones. During and after engaging your body in heart rate inducing activity, endorphins, serotonin and norepinephrine levels in your body increase. PMC explains that “endorphins interact with receptors in your brain that reduces your perception of pain” (Sharma, Madaan, and Petty, 2006). Your serotonin levels, responsible for your happiness, sleep and appetite, are found to increase as these workouts become more of a regular part of your daily routine. Introducing new activity to your day also “promotes feelings of calm and well-being, jumpstarts neural growth and reduces inflammation ” (Sharma, et al., 2006).
Anxiety and depression are often described as taking your physical and emotional energy, so it is hard to be motivated to workout or start something new at the peak of both anxiety and depression. There is an added benefit are having goals that build off of each other over an extended period of time, that are achievable and motivating. There are also tips and trick to keep these short stints of exercise manageable such as knowing what types of exercise is tolerable and when in the day you feel most energized. Exercise is also often associated with the gym, but this is a misleading assumption. Short bursts of activity in your house, garage or even a walk around the block is the type of exercise that gives a good start to what will eventually become habit.
A simple exercise can change your mindset. Along with the hormonal benefits, there are social effects that can improve your depression or anxiety. A simple walk or trip to the gym can occupy yourself from thinking about any negativity in your life. They also are often an easy social interaction to get away from being alone. “Aerobic exercises have been proven to show to reduce anxiety and depression along with improving self esteem” (Sharma, et al., 2006). Other health benefits have been found that are not directly associated with mental health, but indirectly help your overall well being. With a regular sleep schedule and reduced tiredness this is a form of stress relief that increases your energy and stamina. Exercising helps to regulate your sleep, and by sleeping well, you have added benefits.
As a whole, exercise is a prescription-free way to equalize a chemical imbalance, “regular exercise is as beneficial as antidepressants” (The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise, 2018). Overall, physical activity doesn’t just improve your physical body, it can have significant impacts on your mental health as well. Exercising for 30 minutes three days a week has shown significant physical and mental health. Also, your brain produces more beneficial hormones, it’s easier to maintain a sleep schedule, and overall reduces your depression and anxiety. All in all, a healthy body can make a healthy mind.