Depression, anxiety and stress, can exercise be your therapy?
Current studies are showing that 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health issue each year with a combination of depression and anxiety being the most common issue.
Stress and work related stress in particular is also a serious issue with current statistics for 2014/2015 showing that 35% of all work related ill health issues are related to stress. In fact 9.9 million working days in the UK were lost due to stress last year which equates to 43% of all working days lost due to health issues being down to stress.
So can exercise do anything to help reduce these statistics…? It’s been well documented that regular exercise can help improve on physical health issues, but what about mental health?
Well science says it can with research pointing to as little as 5mins of aerobic exercise a day being enough to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Other studies have shown that exercise may improve mental wellbeing as a coping mechanism for stress.
Science has also provided some evidence that those who live a more active lifestyle show lower rates of depression and anxiety than those who are largely sedentary.
In another study, researchers found that those who did regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.
From my own experience I have worked with many who have been suffering from one or all of the issues mentioned. I think this in itself suggests that people with mental health problems are reaching to exercise as a means to cope or overcome these issues.
Why chose exercise though? Well one of the greatest benefits to exercise is the release of endorphins.
Endorphins are often classified to be the happy hormones. Any form of physical activity leads to the release of these feel good hormones. The increase in endorphins in your body leads to a feeling of euphoria, modulation of appetite and an enhancement of immune response all of which will have a positive impact on negative feelings, stress or worry.
A client of mine who suffers from anxiety says
“The difference in how I feel, my mood and my general outlook on life is always better after a training session”
Goal setting may also be key. Training for something or towards something notable will likely help combat the negative effects of stress as another client with anxiety who I have worked with points out
“having a goal helps me greatly, I can get stressed and anxious before a training session and not want to train, having a goal and a personal training slot with my trainer to attend helps me to commit to it, get it done and ultimately get into a weekly routine that is doing me good. I always feel at my absolute best after a session.”
The social aspect of training, meeting friends, playing a sport you enjoy as part of a team or group can be extremely mood enhancing too and the competitiveness and togetherness can help to raise spirits!
Whatever exercise you try, you will soon realise its major benefit is that it allows you to forget your problems, switch off and escape. On a personal level ive noticed many times where I have been stressed or worried about something in particular prior to a gym session and then afterwards ive completely forgotten about what was worrying me. Exercise does seem to help you to forget the day’s irritations and change your focus. Increased energy and optimism from training can help you feel clearer and calmer. Not only do you become completely absorbed in what you are doing at the time but the positive endorphins that exercise release will also help you maintain a more positive outlook afterwards.
A client I train currently who suffers from depression says
“Ive found that if I focus on the things I can control and not the things I can’t I feel better. There are ultimately things out with my control but exercising and eating healthy isn’t one of them. By being in control of this and knowing I’m making positive steps to ensure my health both physically and mentally will improve allows me to deal with stress better.”
Even getting out and meeting people, chatting, sweating and having fun will all ultimately make you feel better! As a trainer I focus a lot around “physical goals” and what changes can I make physically with clients and sometimes forget about what the training experience may be having for them mentally!
A client I trained for many years and who completely transformed their body said in a testimonial to me
“What the photos don’t show you is how I feel mentally and how much Barry has helped me to deal and overcome my anxiety problems”.
I had no idea how much I had helped him until he wrote that. It was a great feeling for me to know I’d helped him in that way and from that day on I became more aware of the mental benefits and effects that my clients were getting from the sessions.
So if your reading this and your feeling depressed, stressed, worried or anxious try a little exercise and if you noticed any positive effects from it do it again and try to get into a routine with it. You never know you may exercise those troubles away for good!