Regular exercise helps in the prevention and management of health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. However, it can also improve your mood, lift your spirits and make you feel better about yourself. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals that boost your sense of well-being and suppresses hormones that cause stress and anxiety. Physical activity is an effective tool against depression and you can find many different ways to make it a pleasurable pastime.
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The body produces endorphins, which are chemicals that reduce the perception of pain, improve immunity and help you relax. Endorphins are natural mood boosters that enhance feelings of optimism and satisfaction. Exercise promotes the generation and release of endorphins, while reducing the activity of hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol, which promote feelings of anxiety and tension. Regular exercise can help you attain a happier state of mind and a better quality of life.
Stress can cause a vicious cycle of negative thinking, worrisome thoughts and physical symptoms such as muscular discomfort, indigestion and pain. Exercise provides a distraction from your worries, whether you exercise by yourself at home or in the company of friends. It also gives you an opportunity to socialize. You can walk in a group, go to the gym or attend classes with friends. As you widen your social circle and strengthen your bonds with people, you will feel happier. You will lose weight, get fitter and healthier. You can greatly reduce your risk of chronic illnesses, which are major contributors to stress and anxiety. You will also feel a sense of accomplishment as you work out harder and for longer intervals of time.
You do not have to indulge in demanding physical activity to reap the psychological benefits of exercise. The Harvard Medical School says that walking, stretching, mental exercises, breathing techniques and muscle relaxation techniques can all be effective in combating stress. To alleviate stress, practice slow, relaxed breathing anywhere and at any time. Controlled muscle relaxation is another effective combatant against tension and anxiety. Meditation is a rewarding exercise that relaxes your mind, makes you more positive and reduces physical signs of stress such as an elevated heartbeat and hypertension. You can also perform chores such as gardening and housecleaning, which can provide substantial exercise and lift your spirits.
Antidepressants vs. Exercise
Exercise can be a useful substitute for antidepressant drugs, according to a 1999 study, originally published in the "Archives of Internal Medicine." In the study, men and women who used aerobic exercise to combat depression had the same success rates as participants who used antidepressants or a combination of exercise and antidepressants. After six months, most of the original participants contributed to a follow-up study, which found that those who stuck to a regular exercise regimen had a lower risk of relapse into depression. According to the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, long-term exercise programs of 10 weeks or longer durations offer the best defense against depression symptoms.