It's amazing how quickly a bad mood can shift with a little bit of movement and exercise. When I am feeling low, and then take a walk with my dogs, hula hoop, and or dance, I am reminded of how good it feels to get the body moving and sweating. So how does that work exactly? Working out may be the last thing you want to do when you're feeling down, but actually that is the time when you really need it.
How does exercise help depression and anxiety?
Exercise helps ease depression in a number of ways. First, exercise helps to release feel-good brain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters and endorphins. Endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain, furthermore regular exercise can help ward off anxiety and feelings of depression before it even happens. Also, exercise increases body temperature, which can have calming effects. Sweat it out!
Additional psychological and emotional benefits of exercise include:
- Improved self-esteem and confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
- Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from negative thinking that feed anxiety and depression. Feel more at peace when you're in the moment and enjoying the now.
- Get more social interaction. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
- Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.
What kind of exercise is best?
Expand your ideas of exercise and find ways to fit activity into your routine. Add small amounts of physical activity throughout your daily routine and into your lifestyle. You can take the stairs instead of the elevator or park a little farther away from your work to fit in a short walk. Or, if you live close to your job, consider biking to work.
Finding an activity that will get you off the couch and moving, and one you enjoy enough to want to include as your daily exercise is best. It doesn't have to be the conventional types of exercise such as weight lifting, running or aerobics, although these are great forms of exercise, these don't appeal to all. A low impact playful exercise such as hooping is going to get you moving and smiling while giving you the physical benefits, even just 10 minutes of hooping will leave you feeling relaxed yet energized and happy. The great thing about hooping is that you can do it in the privacy of your home or with others. You can hoop dance freestyle or hoop to a structured routine that will target all the major muscle groups, but nonetheless you'll be experiencing a fun filled activity that will leave you feeling good and beneficial for total well-being.