Adrianna Munayco Wynman, Provisional Psychologist at PsychMed
Exercise has been found to be an effective evidence-based treatment for anxiety and depression. Research has indicated comparably similar outcomes for exercise, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and medication as treatments for anxiety and depression. However, complementing your CBT with an exercise routine has a range of other health benefits.
So, how exactly does exercise help?
Increases our body’s “happy hormones”: hormones such as serotonin and endorphins are released during exercise. Serotonin is produced predominantly in our gut and is essential for numerous neuropsychological and behavioural processes including mood, sleep, memory, attention, and perception. Low levels of serotonin can lead to mood instability, anxiety, depression, and difficulty sleeping. The release of these natural feel-good chemicals during exercise can help boost our mood and lower stress levels.
Boosts our self-esteem: exercising can give us a sense of achievement, positively affecting our self-confidence and self-esteem. It can also enhance our sense of control and confidence in our own skin!
Improves our sleep: exercising, especially in the morning or afternoon, can help us get a better night’s rest – which is extremely important given the significant role sleep plays in the maintenance of mental health disorders.
Increases our energy levels: exercising regularly can help boost our energy levels – allowing us to enjoy more of our favourite activities.
How can you get started?
Research indicates exercises at moderate level intensity are best, but that all types of exercise can still have positive effects on us. Choose an exercise you would like to try, then set aside a time each day which you think you would be able to stick to. Ascertain any potential barriers to exercising and think of ways to overcome these. Evidence suggests exercising 3-4 times per week has optimal effects.
Exercises you could try:
You could try anything from Yoga, walking, running, Pilates, soccer, weightlifting, cycling, or hiking, just to name a few. Exercise does not need to be structured; you could even start small by taking the stairs instead of the lift. Exercising outdoors can have even greater benefits, as the sun is a natural source of Vitamin D. Regular exposure to sunlight can promote the production of serotonin in our bodies, which can help boost our mood. Research has also shown that surrounding yourself with nature can also positively affect your state of mind, inspiring feelings of peace and tranquillity.
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