The physical benefits of exercise have been well established, and physicians always encourage staying physically active.
Exercise is also considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that physical activity is very effective at reducing fatigue and enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.
When stress affects the brain, it also affects the rest of the body. That means that if your body is in better condition, so is your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers, and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Exercise and Anxiety
The benefits of exercise may well extend beyond stress relief to improving anxiety and related disorders. Psychological studies have shown how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggesting that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout. Some studies have shown that exercise can elevate a depressed mood. Although the effects may be temporary, they demonstrate that a brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache.
Science has also provided some evidence that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. In one study, researchers found that those who got regular exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.
The most recent federal guidelines for adults recommend at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) each week, 1¼ hours of vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), or a combination of two of them.
If you have had an exercise program already, keep up the good work. If not, here are the tips to get you started.
Jog, walk, cycle, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It’s better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggest that frequency is the most important.
Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
Also, It’s often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
Be patient when you start a new exercise program. It requires a lot of work and patience, but exercising brings so many health benefits, that it’s worth it!