paddleboardersWith anxiety and depression cases reaching record numbers, society has an exploding mental health problem. Although an alarming amount of medications are prescribed to counter this problem, physicians overwhelmingly agree that a consistent exercise routine can be remarkably effective, significantly lowering feelings of anxiousness and despondency. If you suffer from chronic or periodic anxiety and depression, exercise can be a boon to your mental health.

If you consider fitness activity to be an exclusively physical endeavor, you may need to reconsider the mental benefits of exercise. Fitness is not only about your physique but is a holistic endeavor in which the physical and psychological components are inseparable. A body and mind working together in concert harmonize to bring about total health. A bout of exercise should ideally engage and stimulate your mind and body. So the next time you skip a workout, consider what your mind may be missing.

Depression and Anxiety Alleviation

If you suffer from depression and anxiety, exercise can provide significant relief. Consider the specifics of how exercise can help you feel better:

  • Activating key neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters such as Serotonin and Norepinephrine are activated and released, increasing neural communication and facilitating the building of new pathways. These newly-formed avenues allow your mind to break away from cyclical thinking patterns.
  • Increasing blood circulation and oxygenation. An augmented flow of blood to the brain provides it with more oxygen, bolstering cognitive function and stability. Mental processes become more efficient and require less energy.
  • Promoting relaxation. Muscle fibers enter exercise sessions with tightness and inflexibility. Exercise warms the muscle fiber, increasing elasticity and allowing the muscle to stretch. This increase in length decreases the amount of tension and contributes to muscle comfort. This relaxation has an isolated effect on the muscle, but also has a generalized effect on the body, causing the mind itself to feel relief.
  • Regaining psychological and emotional control. Anxiety and depression can throttle you and make you feel helpless and ravaged. A vortex of worry can take your mind by force, ravaging it and leaving you weak and vulnerable. Exercise provides you the opportunity to take charge of something, namely your fitness level. You can set goals, work toward them, see progress, and ultimately capture the objective. With this success you can regain your confidence, ultimately taking back your mind and thoughts. Your command of this area will bring with it a sense of accomplishment, improving your confidence and overall well-being.

Making Your Workout Therapeutic

Here are some suggestions for gleaning mental benefit from your workout routine:

  • Get outside. Fresh air, scenic views, and sunshine can be refreshing to the body and the mind.
  • Integrate basic movements. Fluid and simple motions can relax the mind and soothe the emotions, so choose to incorporate basic activities that involve movements that repeat themselves. Some ideas include biking, hiking, walking, running, kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming.
  • Dig deep. Bringing a high degree of intensity to your workout will give you a sense of accomplishment and help you feel confident.

References: Health Fitness Instructor’s HandbookNSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training

Originally posted 2013-08-29 09:00:54.


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