Researchers at Mayo Clinic have identified key ways in which exercise helps to combat depression. Exercise releases endorphins into the blood stream which promote a sense of well-being and calm, provides a valuable distraction when you’re actively worried about a concern or challenge, and introduces you to new social settings to avoid loneliness. Better mental health is one primary benefit of establishing a consistent exercise regimen.
But how much and what type of exercise is best to alleviate symptoms of depression? The good news is that any type of exercise that you enjoy, raises your heart rate, and that you can maintain consistently is an effective remedy for symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Mayo Clinic suggests as little as thirty minutes each day, three to five days each week may “significantly improve depression or anxiety.” The key to reaping the maximum mental health benefit from your workouts is consistency. Finding an activity that you enjoy and can complete on a regular basis is more important than how long you engage in any one session.
Aerobic exercise, resistance training and yoga all have different benefits that positively impact mental health.
Aerobic exercise (i.e. running, walking, swimming, or cycling) increases blood flow and oxygen in the brain, which contributes to the release of endorphins. The endorphins released during exercise give the boost we often call a “runner’s high”. Endorphins are otherwise often known as the body’s natural feel-good chemicals that help to release stress and provide a sense of calm and well-being. Whether you’re new to exercise or a seasoned FitClub member, FitClub has a wide array of aerobic exercises that you can sample either in a group exercise class or on your own. Keep experimenting until you find the aerobic exercise that make it easier for you to commit to a consistent regimen.
You don’t have to sign up for a marathon to begin to feel the benefits of exercise on your mental health. A moderately intense thirty minute aerobic workout will be enough to reduce stress and release endorphins, allowing you to feel better immediately with no adverse side effects.
Resistance training may help to alleviate symptoms of depression by inducing faster, and better quality sleep. Better sleep, more regular sleep, especially during times of anxiety and depression, may help an affected person ward off additional stress that presents itself each day.
Like aerobic exercise, resistance training also raises the heart rate and induces sweating when you allow for only short rest between sets. The effect produces endorphins, improves self esteem and confidence, and reduces the impact of stress.
If you’ve never practiced yoga before, you might be wary of jumping on the mat and slipping into a pose. Yoga, is known for its whole-body focus and the process might make you more mindful. While you do reap physical benefits from yoga, it can also be a good way to begin a mindfulness practice that you can incorporate into other areas of your life during anxiety, depression, or stress. Developing a breathing practice also helps to calm the nervous system and center the mind when you have difficulty focusing or finding the energy to make it through day to day tasks.