Doctor’s recommend physical exercise to keep the heart healthy, improve muscle strength, and lengthen our lives. Science has shown that exercise can also vastly improve our moods, lower our stress levels, and reduce both anxiety and depression.
Exercise for Stress
Researchers believe that regular exercise helps to train our bodies to handle stress. Exercise trains the cardiovascular, muscular, and renal systems to work together more efficiently, and when stressful situations arise, the body will be able to regulate the stress response. Because exercise is itself a stressor, it may also trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, stimulating the body’s relaxation response.
Exercise for Anxiety
New research is emerging that high-intensity exercise may be especially helpful for people with anxiety. In a study performed at the University of Missouri-Columbia, researchers studied the effects of no exercise, moderate exercise, and intense exercise on women suffering from depression. The study showed that, while moderate exercise certainly caused a decline in the symptoms of anxiety, high intensity exercise for 33 minutes showed the biggest impact on anxiety symptoms overall.
Exercise for Depression
A study performed by the Wakayama Medical University, Japan, showed that regular exercise had a positive effect on depressive symptoms. Female subjects with mild to moderate depression were divided into two groups and either asked to jog at a moderate intensity level for 50 minutes daily or engage in no physical activity for 8 weeks. At the end of the study, those in the jogging group showed marked improvement when compared with those not involved in a regular exercise routine. Exercise is believed to stimulate hormones in the body related to the regulation of mood as well as boost feelings of self-esteem and self-worth, which can help combat the feelings of hopelessness often experienced by those with depression.