Does Exercise Help Anxiety and Depression Get Better?

Woman exercising at home

Doctors and health professionals have encouraged the general public to exercise for many years as part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s a well known fact that people who exercise are more likely to suffer less illnesses such as heart attacks, strokes, cancer or everyday colds. What most don’t know that it is beneficial in eliminating emotional illnesses. Many individuals suffer from anxiety or depression. Often harmful drugs are prescribed to suffers which can have long term effects on their health. There are natural remedies such as physical activity. Does exercise help anxiety? Prevent or cure depression?

There have been studies conducted by major universities that support the theory that it does indeed help. The studies reveal that exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication in treating anxiety and depression. It is also shown to be a great stress releaser.

So how does exercise help people suffering from anxiety and depression? There are reasons on why this natural form of therapy is beneficial in treating these ailments.

Exercise Makes You Happy

Woman eating salad at cafe

We all know feeling good lifts our mood. Do you remember when you were feeling down but something all the sudden lifts your spirits? Perhaps a joke you just heard from a friend, or you hear a feel good story. What happened during this time? You either for a moment or shortly after forgot about what you were sad about.

As I stated in my past blog posts, how you feel every minute is important in maintain a happy and successful life. If you always feel anger, negative, and sad you’ll attract more of it into your life. The worst part is pretty soon 95% of your mind will be consumed by negative thoughts. This means only 5% of your mind will go to productive goals such as achieving what YOU want in life.

Have you been so angry or upset about an event it consumes much of your daily life? You wake up in the morning with this thought on your mind, and you go to bed with it as well. How does it make you feel? I’m sure it’s draining emotionally. Not only does it affect your happiness but how you conduct your life.

You feel out of control, constantly stressed out. Instead of enjoying life you do things to sabotage your own sense of well being. Most times not even aware you are doing this to yourself.

Many people make the mistake of looking at exercise from a physical standpoint. By that I mean they look at it as a way to change their physical appearance. They want to lose more weight or want to have a nicer figure.

I truly believe the important aspect that is missing when it comes to exercise is its value in improving the mood and mind. To be more specific the emotional connection.

Exercise Helped Me Overcome Anxiety

does exercise help anxiety get better - bjj

I battled anxiety for many years especially when it came to public speaking or competing in sports. When I participated in these events I could feel the anxiety building up inside of me as the time for me to take center stage neared.

My heart would begin to beat faster. Sometimes I would start to sweat. When this happens thoughts raced through my head reminding me, “oh no this is happening again, I’m going to get a panic attack.” The thought of embarrassing myself only worsened the anxiety. Images of people laughing at me ran to through my head.

To tell you the truth nobody ever laughed. Not even once. In fact they all supported my efforts. It’s important to note how our emotions play such a heavy role in how we see ourselves. My mental image of who I thought I was as a speaker or competitor was not really based in reality. However, my experiences of being shamed and embarrassed as a child profoundly affected my ability to function when it came to facing an audience of strangers. Believe me when I tell you what is preventing you from achieving what you want in life it is really your mind. Nothing else.

Some people like to run, bike, play tennis or do whatever exercise that makes them feel good. I like to practice martial arts especially Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There is a common theme I found among BJJ practitioners that I hear all the time. That is when they practice jiu-jitsu they forget about all their troubles and stresses in life. I couldn’t agree more. To me it’s one of the most therapeutic things one can do. Often I become so absorbed in the art that I find myself staying behind when others have long left the gym for the day.

When I was a child I would literally freak out when I had to face the public. I remember my first job training as a cashier how nervous I was. It was crippling and I knew it was going to be a problem heading into adulthood. In order for me to achieve any level of success in life I knew I had to learn how to deal with it. That was to put myself in an uncomfortable situation, practice, and learn to overcome anxiety.

Here is a video of me competing in Las Vegas in 2010. I had taken 4 years off prior to this to concentrate on my business. This was my first international tournament and the opponent in the this video was a veteran of the scene, winning many tournaments. A great fellow as well.

What’s important to get out of this video is not so much on my performance but my mindset going into the match. In the past, I would have had self-defeating thoughts and extreme nervousness. Especially once my opponent gets an upper hand on me. I can honestly say I had no doubt in my mind that day I was going to be a champion.

During the match I used mostly psychological techniques making him believe something was there when it was not. See because of my understanding of perceived reality I was able to use it on my opponents. Ooops! I let out my secret haha! Gotta love this psycho babble it works wonders!

After the match I had members of the audience come down to tell me how much they admired my ability to stay focused, and cool under pressure. I was referred that day as the “technical zen master.” Let this video serve as a shining example to all of those out there who were told they would never make it in anything. If I can overcome anxiety so can you!

Guanlet BJJ

Another key element on how exercise helps improve your mood is it fosters social relationships. Being around a group of people who share the same goals as you do has shown to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

It is well documented that people who are married tend to live longer than people who are single. Although I do have friends who would jokingly argue that it’s quite the opposite.

Another point I would like to make is exercise not only releases emotional stress but puts physical stress on the body as well. It is believed that because we push our bodies during exercise we help our body adapt to dealing with stress more effectively. In other words, the ability of people who exercised handled stress better then sedentary individuals.

A study conducted by Duke University in 2000 revealed that exercise can have a long term effect in helping anxiety and depression. Not only was exercise found to be just as effective as drug therapy there was also evidence of long term benefits. People who got over anxiety and depression where less likely to suffer a relapse when maintaining an exercise program.

Levels Of Anxiety and Depression

Let me elaborate here. There is a major difference between feeling sad or blue to major depression. A major depression or psychiatric disorder lasts long enough to get into the way of a normal functioning life.

Signs of this including a loss of interest in things you used to like to do, anxiousness, worry, low energy, loss of appetite, lack of concentration, interrupted sleep patterns, or suicidal thoughts.

Other than seeking professional help, drugs or talk therapy. One can begin an exercise program. Try exercising with a friend or joining a group class. This will help motivate you and also satisfy the other benefit of exercise which is the social connection.

If you require a more personal approach you can hire a qualified trainer or coach. Make sure you do a background check to ensure they are qualified to do what they advertise. I never take advice from someone who has never proven themselves or gotten results for others. There are many scam artists out there so beware.

For example, when a small business coach offers a service of helping budding entrepreneurs succeed in business but has never made money on his business ventures I would stay clear.

I’ve hired coaches in the past for athletics, business, or anything where I sought an area of expertise. However, I always do my background checks thoroughly to ensure they are top quality.

There are tons of trainers or businesses who like to advertise they are “The Best.” First off who gave them that title? I prefer to let my actions, achievements, and clients determine that. Those credentials never lie.

I hope after reading this article if you start to get active if you haven’t done so already. Find an exercise program that inspires you to vastly improve your mind body connection.

If you have any questions on how to get started on an exercise program or anything related to this article please feel free to comment below.

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