The physical benefits of exercise are well-known, but not everyone considers how exercise can affect their mental health. A lot of people might start out going to the gym and working out to lose weight and get into better physical shape, but they often find that regular physical activity can greatly improve their mood. In fact, according to a recent online poll by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 14 percent of Americans turn to exercise to reduce their anxiety and depression. That may be significant, yet the increase in mood that comes from exercise always seems like more of a fringe benefit of working out rather than an end goal.
The truth is that exercise is an excellent treatment for depression and has proven to be so effective that many doctors would rather recommend an exercise regimen rather than medication for their patients. It may not be viable for everyone with depression since you do need to be physically healthy enough to exercise, but it’s clear proof that physical activity is just as important to the mind as to the body.
The reason why exercise is so effective in reducing depression is due to endorphins. These are chemicals produced by the body that create a feeling of happiness and euphoria. It’s the reason why you always feel a little bit better after a tough workout, even if you’ve worked to the point of exhaustion. Exercise can also help release the pent-up energy that comes from stress, and it can help you sleep better at night. Regular exercise can even reduce fatigue, which might come as a surprise considering how often people work out to the point of exhaustion.
While you might have started a regular exercise routine to get in better physical shape, the effects that physical activity can have on your mental state cannot be overstated. We know that depression can often make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, let alone start a rigorous exercise program, but even moderate exercises like walking or biking can help relieve the worst of your symptoms.
If you live with depression or anxiety, speak to your doctor about starting an exercise program. You might be surprised at how much it can improve your mood.