Can Exercise improve Anxiety, Stress or Depression? – Guest Blog from Fitness HQ
In a nutshell, yes! Exercise or even physical activity as a whole can improve anxiety, reduce stress and help relieve some of the symptoms of depression. The benefits of physical activity and exercise on physical health have been well documented over recent years. Some of these benefits include a stronger cardiovascular system, better lung function, improved strength and flexibility and even an improved sex life. However, there is now more research and testimonials from people who used to suffer with one or more of the mental health issues outlined above, that physical activity and exercise can help improve mental health.
In fact, there was a recent study conducted at the University of Cincinnati that found that Yoga and other activities like that helped reduce anxiety in children. Furthermore, they discovered that not only did it help relieve anxiety, but it also improved their performance in the classroom!
Although physical activity and exercise can have such a positive impact on mental health, unfortunately the number of adults and children who are diagnosed with anxiety or depression is growing. Furthermore, the vast majority of these are quite often prescribed medication from their health practitioner as a way of dealing with it. Although this may appear to be a good idea, a lot of the medication used to treat anxiety and depression can have severe side effects: Diarrhea, vomiting, GI disturbances and insomnia.
Fitness HQ deliver a number of fitness qualifications including personal trainer courses in Cardiff strongly believe that exercise and physical activity should be used where possible to help treat individuals who suffer with these conditions. During their personal training courses Fitness HQ discuss in depth how exercise can affect various special populations and also the importance of providing them with a pathway to better health, improved self-confidence and self-belief. With this in mind, Fitness HQ has listed their 4 top reasons for encouraging individuals who suffer with mild anxiety, stress or depression to exercise or take part in physical activity:
- Neither physical activity or exercise needs to be boring or done alone. According to the NHS millions of people in the UK live alone and hundreds of thousands of people are lonely and cut off from society. The lack of interaction with others or feelings of isolation can result in Depression. As health and fitness specialists we can encourage group exercise participation followed by social events to help our clients interact with each other, form new friendships and even create peer coping / support networks. One of our experienced tutors actually recalls setting up a group exercise class for clients with mental health conditions which after two weeks transformed into a ‘tea and coffee social’ – in his opinion this was just as beneficial as exercising because the group grew every week with new clients wanting to socialize with others who suffered with the same condition.
- In complete contrast to the above, other experiences in the modern world is slightly different and usually consists of pressure from work, pressure from friends and family and with modern technology such as smart phones we just can’t escape it. Exercise on the other hand gives your client the opportunity to escape reality and to leave their work e-mails / phone in the locker. By interacting with others in a fun setting such as taking part in walking 5 a-side football promotes engagement and also helps the client escape reality. This break from reality can help the client de-stress and stop them from worrying about normal day to day things such as work.
- Neural Changes. Exercise can promote a number of changes in the brain which include things like neural growth, feelings of calm and well-being as well as reduce inflammation. Furthermore, exercise can result in that ‘feel good’ factor and in the release of powerful feel good chemicals known as endorphins. Almost all of us can relate to this. Whether you completed a 3km race for life, smashed a tough workout, hit a personal best in your favorite lift or even after playing a game of hockey or netball – that feel good factor you have afterwards, that’s what makes it enjoyable and also contributes to why we keep going back for more.
- Improve your sleep with exercise! I’m sure we’ve all experienced at some point a mild / acute form of insomnia or even a couple of bad night’s sleep on the bounce – how did you feel the next day? In most cases lack of sleep makes us sensitive, short fused and even the smallest of things can cause stress. It’s well documented that individuals who suffer with Anxiety, Stress or Depression naturally find it harder to sleep, thus exacerbating the condition. Naturally, the more sleep our client or we get, the less likely we are to exacerbate the condition.
- Release Tension. It’s extremely common for clients who suffer with Stress and Anxiety to be tense, especially when they are in less favorable situations or in stressful situations. When clients are chronically tense they could experience things such as poor posture, back pain, insomnia, diarrhea and frequent urination. Exercise can help reduce this tension and as a result improve your client’s quality of life. E.g. Yoga, Pilates, Group Exercise and even Swimming can help reduce tension. As mentioned earlier, there are now a number of studies that support this theory, especially regarding the benefits of Yoga and reduced anxiety.
As you can see, the benefits to exercise go far beyond the way you look, increasing strength or helping you run a faster 5km. Exercise can make a big difference to a client’s life both emotionally as well as physically.
For more information on training, nutrition or health overall why not checkout Fitness HQ’s blog by clicking here