Exercise is a known mood booster, as well as being important for your physical health, but it also can help people better manage anxiety and depression.
“We have known for a long time that exercise promotes physiological and neurochemical responses that make you feel good,” Nanette Mutrie, a professor at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences, told The Guardian.
“When we exercise, the brain releases endorphins, as well as dopamine and serotonin. Very often, these same chemicals form part of antidepressant drugs.”
A JAMA Psychiatry study from earlier this year found a link between objectively-assessed physical activity and the risk for major depressive disorder. The data suggests that exercise offers a protective effect against depression. However, this does not hold true for self-reported physical activity.
“Findings point to the importance of objective measurement of physical activity in epidemiological studies of mental health and support the hypothesis that enhancing physical activity may be an effective prevention strategy for depression,” the authors wrote.
Additional studies have shown that exercise can improve symptoms of depression temporarily, according to the Anxiety Depression Association of America. Even a quick walk can provide a few hours of relief. Other studies have found physically active people were less likely to experience anxiety and depression than sedentary people.
Another study of more than 1.2 million U.S. adults, published last year, showed that exercise reduces the number of days a person experiences poor mental health by almost two days a month, PSYCOM.NET reported. Team sports, plus cycling and gym activities, appear to offer the best results.