More Americans suffer from anxiety and depression disorders today than ever before. When you suffer from depression or anxiety, even simple tasks can feel overwhelming. If you also struggle with addiction, recovery can seem impossible. Fortunately, professional help is available to treat both addiction and mental illness.
For many, a combination of medication and therapy is effective in significantly reducing the symptoms of mental illness and treating addiction. Your doctor will also recommend lifestyle changes, such as increased physical activity. You’ve likely heard before that exercise helps boost your mood, but how does it do this exactly, and how can you best use exercise to fight anxiety and depression? Find out in this blog post.
Exercise Releases Feel-Good Hormones
When you exercise, your body produces several chemicals that help improve your mood by relieving stress and pain. The most commonly known chemical released during exercise is an endorphin. Other mood-boosting chemicals associated with physical activity include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
However, while any amount or type of exercise is better than nothing, not all exercise is created equal. Use the following tips to get the biggest benefits.
Increase the Intensity
The amount of hormones released during exercise depends on a couple of factors. One of these is the intensity of the exercise. According to research, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective at releasing endorphins than lower-intensity workouts.
So if you feel like your workouts aren’t improving your mood, take things up a notch. For example, instead of taking a 30-minute walk every day, try walking for 1 minute and then running for 1 minute. Repeat this 15 times, and your heart rate is sure to increase.
Focus on Aerobic Exercise
Another factor that affects hormone release is the type of exercise you perform. According to Healthline, aerobic activity is the most effective at treating depression. Try to do at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity, such as jogging, biking, or swimming, for five days each week.
While aerobic activity may be best for relieving depression, strength training also offers tremendous benefits to your physical health and emotional well-being. If you want to lift weights for exercise, make your workouts more like HIIT by supersetting exercises. Supersetting is when you perform different exercises back to back with no rest in between.
For example, if you usually do a set of bench press and then rest, use your rest period to do lateral pulldowns or bent-over rows instead. When choosing exercises to superset, pick ones that work opposing muscle groups so you don’t over-fatigue your muscles.
Though the feel-good hormones that exercise gives you can help your depression or anxiety immensely, always make sure to start a new exercise regimen slowly and with the advice of your doctor.
Exercise Can Be a Social Activity
When you combine exercise with quality time with friends, you get even more of a mood boost. Friends can be a great support network for your recovery. Also, because good moods are contagious, hanging out with positive people can make you feel more positive too.
Pick a friend as your workout buddy who is at about the same fitness level as you. That way, you can push and motivate each other. If you have too big of a gap in fitness ability, then the less fit person may struggle to keep up while the fitter person feels unmotivated to work harder.
The most important quality to look for in a workout partner though is dependability. Choose a friend who you can count on to show up consistently for workouts. You’ll have an easier time sticking to your exercise regimen if you know your friend is expecting you.
Outdoor Activity Offers Even More Benefits
In addition to increasing the intensity of your workouts and working out with a partner, take your workouts outside. According to the Scientific American, getting outdoors can make exercise more effective at relieving depression and anxiety. In fact, many doctors have started prescribing hikes in parks as treatment for both physical and mental health.
These doctors’ recommendations are based on the promising results of several studies. For example, a 2011 study reported in the Scientific American found that people who exercised outdoors experienced a greater decrease in anger and depression and a greater boost in energy than those who exercised indoors.
One of the reasons outdoor activity is so beneficial is because sunshine is an excellent source of vitamin D. According to Everyday Health, studies show that vitamin D deficiency is closely related to depression. By getting outside, you’ll boost your levels of vitamin D and may find that you start to feel a bit happier too.
If you usually work out in a gym, consider changing at least one workout per week to go hiking, trail running, climbing, or rowing. The fresh air, natural scenery, and sunshine will help make your workout more pleasant and likely boost your mood too.
As you can see, exercise is a great way to combat depression and anxiety. To learn more about lifestyle changes you can make to help you improve your mental health, as well as overcome addiction, talk to a mental health practitioner. Here at Pacific Ridge, we have a team of psychiatric professionals ready to assist you with your recovery. Contact us today for more information.