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Exercise and Depression or Anxiety
Exercise and depression or anxiety
How exercise can ease the symptoms of depression
Exercise can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even small amounts of exercise can help. These realistic tips and goals can help you get started and stick with it.
If you have depression or anxiety, you might find your doctor prescribing a regular dose of exercise in addition to medication or psychotherapy. Exercise isn't a cure for depression or anxiety. But its psychological and physical benefits could somewhat improve your symptoms.
"It's not a magic bullet, but increasing physical activity is a positive and active strategy to help manage depression and anxiety," says Kristin Vickers-Douglas, Ph.D., a psychologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
When you have depression or anxiety, exercising may be the last thing you think you can do. But you can overcome the inertia. Here's a look at how exercise can ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Plus, get realistic tips to get started and stick with exercising.
30 minutes a day could improve your mood
Exercise has long been touted as a way to maintain physical fitness and help prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other diseases. A growing volume of research shows that exercise also can help improve symptoms of certain mental conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Exercise also may help prevent a relapse after treatment for depression or anxiety.
Research suggests that it may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to significantly improve symptoms of depression. However, smaller amounts of activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — have been shown to improve mood in the short term. "So, small bouts of exercise may be a great way to get started if it's initially too difficult to do more," Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.
Just how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety isn't fully understood. Researchers believe that exercise prompts changes in both mind and body.
Some evidence suggests that exercise positively affects the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain. Exercise may also boost feel-good endorphins, release tension in muscles, help you sleep better and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. All of these changes in your mind and body can improve such symptoms as sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self-doubt and hopelessness.
If you exercise regularly but depression or anxiety still impairs your daily functioning, seek professional help. Exercise isn't meant to replace medical treatment of depression or anxiety.
The benefits of exercise for depression and anxiety
Exercise has numerous psychological and emotional benefits when you have depression or anxiety. These include: