Regular exercise and activity can have some very healthy benefits. These include:
- The release of feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, endocannabinoids and endorphins) which help to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- An increase in body temperature which can have a calming effect on a person suffering for these conditions.
- The reduction of immune system chemicals, which alleviate symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Some of the emotional and psychological benefits of exercise and activity include:
- Self-confidence: Once exercise begins to show physical improvements and a person feels a sense of accomplishment having achieved a goal, self-confidence most certainly increases. Once the body is in better shape, a person may begin to feel increasingly better about themselves too.
- A boost in social skills: Many exercise activities can be done alone or with groups of individuals with like-minded interests. Exercise offers a great opportunity to meet others and fine-tune your social skills. Exercise can also get you outdoors. Even if all you do is walk around your neighbourhood, exchanging a friendly smile with a passer-by can certainly lift your mood too.
- Alleviating worries: For symptoms of consistent worry, exercise activity can be a highly positive distraction. Constantly worrying triggers cycles of negative thought patterns that essentially feed mental conditions like depression and anxiety. Exercise breaks the cycle with positive effects.
- Improving coping skills: Most often, exercise promotes routine behaviours that don’t lean into negative consequences, such as drinking alcohol to alleviate feelings of sadness. Healthier routines promote better coping skills for a more positive and productive lifestyle.
Is it better to engage in regular (general) physical activities or develop a structured exercise programme?
By definition, physical activity can be anything that contracts muscles and allows the body to use up energy, such as walking or doing a little gardening. Exercise can be defined as a planned and structured series of body movements (higher intensity level) that contributes to improving or maintaining overall physical fitness. This includes activities that get the heart pumping faster, such as running, weight lifting or playing sports such as tennis or basketball.
Any activity, even if it’s merely washing your car, that gets you out of bed or off the couch will count in your favour and improve your mood on some level, as long as you make an effort to positively engage with the activity and prevent yourself from dwelling on negativity or your condition’s symptoms.
You can increase your levels of activity in a variety of simple ways – bypass the elevator and take the stairs when you’re out and about, consider biking to the shops if you live close-by or park your car a little further away so that you can deliberately fit in a short walk. Every little bit makes a difference.