Exercise as Treatment for Depression and Anxiety

At Mood Active we encourage people to keep exercising as a treatment for depression and anxiety, whether it be at one of our friendly exercises classes or simply getting into a routine of morning walks to clear the mind and tackle the day ahead. The message here is to get out of the home or office and be active, get the blood pumping and encourage those feel good chemicals to flow!

Broadly speaking, keeping active can:

  • help lift mood through improved fitness
  • pump blood to the brain, which should make you think more clearly.
  • help improve sleeping patterns
  • increase energy levels
  • help block negative thoughts or distract people from daily worries
  • offer an opportunity to socialize and seek social support
  • change the levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, stress hormones and endorphins (substances that can block pain and may also enhance feelings of well-being).

Keeping active is part of our history, human beings evolved to thrive in natural environments and in bonded social groups.  At the end of the day, we are just another animal that previously was required to hunt for our own food and build our own shelters – largely operating outside in nature. The industrial revolution has made survival much easier for humans and increased the time we spend indoors glued to our screens.

 Exercise is about as low-risk as you can get and the side effects are about as minimal as you can get.

Tips to help you get started

Australian Government guidelines recommend adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity on most or all days of the week to improve physical and mental health. People with depression and anxiety may find it difficult to get motivated or continue to exercise on a long-term basis. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Keep it simple and achievable – gradually increase your activity levels. Start out with some short walks down the road with a friend then gradually increase the distance and intensity. Set goals that are achievable and help build your confidence levels.
  • Try to Exercise with Others – it’s common for people with depression or anxiety to withdraw from society and feel lonely. Joining a sporting club or attending gym classes will help to connect with others socially and increase confidence and well-being.
  • Try to keep it enjoyable – many people battling mental health issues struggle to find pleasure or interest in doing things, so if you can – try to make the activity something fun and satisfying.
  • Setup a Routine – planning to exercise means that your brain has one less task to think about each day, if you know that each morning you wake up and meet a friend for a walk on the beach then you are more likely to stick to it.

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