I remember a well-known doctor on the radio once said, “If we could take what exercise does for our bodies, and put it in a pill, it would cure almost all symptoms of major diseases, and most of the diseases themselves.”
We know that exercise is good for our bodies, and it’s not news that it’s also good for our minds. Exercise has been shown to have significant effects on depression and anxiety. Although all movement is good, and yoga can be particularly relaxing, aerobic activity seems to be the best at reducing symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. We don’t know exactly why this is, but it’s probably a combination of increased “good” hormones, reduced “bad” hormones, better quality sleep and perhaps just the act of taking the time to do something productive for oneself.
When you’re thinking about what kind of exercise is best for your mind, think about how you feel after different exercise sessions. You probably feel differently after a hike on a trail than after a run on the treadmill. Maybe the treadmill is the best when you want to watch TV and zone out. Maybe a walk in nature is best when you need to calm your mind and get some peace and quiet. A walk outside may also be in order after you’ve been cooped up inside – Vitamin D can also have a positive effect on depression.
Another interesting phenomenon is that people who say they exercise for mental health benefits are more likely to stick to their exercise routine than those who exercise for weight loss or physical health improvements. You can make this work for you by being really specific about the mental health benefits you get from exercise.
Also, remind yourself that calorie-wise, maybe it won’t make that big a difference if you sit at your desk instead of walking around the block. But brain-wise, it might make a big difference in your mood for the rest of the day. Keep it up at least three times a week and you may find yourself feeling much better, and not just because of the increased physical fitness.