Exercise: The Cure For Anxiety
We’ve long known and accepted the many positive effects exercise has on your physical health. The Mayo Clinic spouts a host of benefits, ranging from an energy boost thanks to improved oxygen and nutrient delivery, to combating a slew of health conditions like type 2 diabetes to metabolic syndrome to high cholesterol and blood pressure. But we’re now learning the positive effects exercise has on our emotional health; specifically the cure for anxiety.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), an estimated 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, which makes it a very common issue. While there are many drugs created to help ease depression and anxiety, researchers and psychologists are starting to recommend a different type of prescription; exercise.
But can exercise provide the relief that traditional prescription drugs do? According to a 1999 study at Duke University; yes.
In a randomized controlled trial, participants were split between three groups; antidepressant only, antidepressant and exercise, and exercise only. Each group was assessed after 6-weeks showing the drug-only group was doing slightly better, yet in a 10-month follow up, the exercise only group showed the highest rate of remission.
The ADAA explains, “Science has also provided some evidence that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. In one study, researchers found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.”
How does exercise improve mental health? In a 2010 article found in Time Magazine, microbiologists and neuroscientists “have begun to show that exercise may alter brain chemistry in much the same way that antidepressant drugs do — regulating the key neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine.”
What’s better is that exercise can not only ease symptoms in people struggling with anxiety and depression, but may help people from developing these disorders in the first place.
Like any prescription, exercise and the amount of it will vary from person to person, but unlike prescription drugs, exercise doesn’t come with negative side effects, rather it provides many positive side effects like the physical benefits mentioned at the top of this post.
If you’re already regularly exercising, awesome! Keep it up! However if you don’t currently workout out, or do not do is regularly (3 times a week), it doesn’t take much to start. Simply walking can improve your mood, and your blood pressure.
General guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate to intense (think power walking to running) 5 times a week. This doesn’t have to be done all at one, either. Taking a 15 minute power walk before work, and performing 15 minutes of bodyweight strength training exercises (push-ups, squats, planks, etc.) after dinner can make a difference.
There are many reasons exercise is a good addition to your therapy, and being free is high on the list. Prescription drugs and doctor appointments are pricey, but walking and pushups cost you zilch. You can exercise anywhere, and do any form that makes you happy. Dance, bike, Zumba, run, swim, just move your body in a way you like and your brain will thank you!
What’s your favorite way to exercise?
Guest Post Author’s Bio:
Dan Chabert: An entrepreneur from Denmark, Dan is a loving husband and running aficionado. When not preparing for a race, he manages his websites, one of which is GearWeAre.