Anxiety affects more than 40 million adults each year in the United States, and depression affects more than 16.1 million American adults.
Different risk factors—including genetics, life events, brain chemistry, and personality—are believed to cause these illnesses.
Thank goodness these illnesses are treatable. Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do if you’re experiencing anxiety and depression.
Read on to learn 10 benefits of exercise in treating anxiety and depression.
1. Exercise Decreases Cortisol
When you exercise, your body decreases the production of cortisol. Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone that your body produces when it is stressed. That’s why cortisol is often called the stress hormone.
Your adrenal glands secrete cortisol as part of your flight or fight response. High levels of cortisol can cause all kinds of problems, such as higher blood pressure, loss of bone density, blood sugar imbalances, and a loss of muscle tissue.
Reducing stress hormones such as cortisol can be achieved by getting regular exercise.
2. Exercise Distracts From Negative Thoughts
Physical exercise can serve as a great distraction from stressful or negative thoughts. Many treatments for depression focus on ending the mental loops your brain repeats to itself daily.
When you exercise, you give your mind a break from negative thoughts, and this could help put you in a better mood. You can focus all of your attention on the act of jogging itself.
New research suggests that exercise plays an important role in stopping negative thoughts, and it could help banish them forever. Create a weekly workout schedule to help spread out the benefits of exercising.
3. Exercise Provides Social Support
There are many benefits to exercising in groups. Social support is one of these benefits. Whether you’re taking a group class that focuses on full-body workouts or playing a team sport, group exercise can give you a double dose of stress relief.
Many organizations offer free group exercise classes. You can also sign up for a company or community kickball team.
It doesn’t matter what sport you play. All that matters is that you get out there and give it a go.
4. Exercise Buffers Stress
Research has shown that physical exercise may be linked to lower physiological reactivity toward stress. What does that mean? Put simply, people who get more exercise are less affected by stress.
Exercise builds up a buffer between you and stress. When you exercise regularly, stressful situations or changes in brain chemistry don’t affect you the same way. Regular physical exercise can help you handle your current stress and ward off future stress.
5. Exercise Promotes Confidence
What’s the secret to confidence? Exercise can give you a huge confidence boost. People who exercise on a regular schedule lose weight or maintain their current weight more easily. Exercise helps tone up your muscles, and it gives you skin a glow.
You may feel significantly more confident after a workout. This boost comes not only from the workout but also from seeing how nicely your clothes fit.
Exercise to increase your strength and never get winded by walking up a few flights of stairs again.
6. Exercise Promotes Better Mental Health
Research suggests that people who are stressed get sick more easily. This is because stress can lower your body’s immune system and prevent you from fighting off infections.
Improving your overall health through exercise can improve your mental health too. When you exercise, your body has greater immunity to fight off colds, flu, and other minor illnesses. By exercising, you can stay healthier longer and promote your mental health.
7. Exercise Releases Endorphins
During exercise, your body releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. These brain chemicals act like natural cannabis. They put you in a good mood and increase your overall feeling of well-being.
People who suffer from depression and anxiety can benefit from an extra boost of endorphins. Endorphins work to limit the brain’s perception of pain. They work in a similar way as pain medication to ease pain without addiction.
People suffering from anxiety and depression can benefit from an extra boost of endorphins.
8. Exercise Is a Coping Mechanism
Exercise is a great coping mechanism to help people who have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Building a regular exercise schedule using yoga or aerobic exercise can be an effective way to manage anxiety and depression.
As you begin to shed some of the extra tension, you’ll gain energy and optimism that you didn’t have before. Exercise will help you remain calm and clear in everything you do, and it will prevent the effects of anxiety and depression from growing.
9. Exercise Can Ease ADHD Symptoms
One of the simplest ways to ease the symptoms of ADHD is exercise. Through exercise, you’ll experience improved concentration, motivation, mood, and memory.
By boosting your brain’s dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, you can increase your focus and attention. Exercise can work in the same way as common ADHD medications like Ritalin and Adderall to decrease the symptoms associated with ADHD.
10. Exercise Can Help You Sleep Better
Regular exercise can help people fall asleep better. Everyone needs a good night’s sleep, but people who suffer from anxiety and depression can benefit from a good night’s sleep and the rest that it provides their bodies.
Exercise has also been shown to reduce insomnia and may help you fall asleep faster too. Insomnia is commonly related to anxiety and depression. Physical activity can help shift your body’s internal clock depending upon the time the exercise is performed.
Exercise Reduces Anxiety and Depression
Everyone can benefit from regular exercise, but people who suffer from mental illnesses like anxiety and depression experience many positive benefits. Incorporating a regular exercise routine into your schedule will allow you to reap the benefits of exercise.
If you’re living with Crohn’s disease and are currently experiencing anxiety and depression, try adding regular physical exercise into your schedule.