The impact of physical activity on anxiety and depression
Engaging in physical activity and the consequent realisation of it’s subsequent benefits on our mental health, in addition to the obvious physical health benefits, cannot be underestimated.
It’s impact on our mental health have been recognised to the extent that it can be used as a stand alone treatment for depression or in conjunction with psychological therapies and/or medication. I regularly walk my Border Collie over the moors and notice the positive effect on my mood once I have finished. I am also profoundly aware of the detrimental impact on my mood should I go for a couple of weeks without having experienced a walk in the fresh air and amongst nature.
Even if you are not actively involved with a regular routine of physical activity or exercise, a short 10 minute burst of brisk walking can improve energy levels, enhance mood and increase our mental alertness. Regular involvement in physical activity releases endorphins in our brain that have proven to reduce anxiety and reduce levels of stress, and in some cases result in a feeling of euphoria (known as “runner’s high”). This in turn, has the ability to create a sense of increased positivity and an energising feeling of life and what it has to offer. Furthermore, a sense of increased self-esteem, self confidence, and general wellbeing as a result of physical activity has a profound impact on our perception of how we see ourselves, our ability to cope with life’s stressors, and how we view the world around us, all contributing to the alleviation and prevention of anxiety and depression. Physical activity can also have a positive effect on sleep and we must be mindful that problems with our sleep can be a major factor in our susceptibility to anxiety and depression and vice versa.
It has been suggested that being involved in low level physical activity e.g. brisk walking, swimming, yoga, for 30 minutes per week, five days a week over a three month period has the greatest impact on mood state. This does not have to involve structured activity necessarily, but simply being mindful of behavioural change you can make a difference, such as using the stairs as opposed to a lift or escalator, cycling as opposed to driving or using public transport.
Additionally, physical activity when part of a team can improve feelings of self-worth and improve self- esteem, in an environment that increases communication and enhances social networks and friendships.
Remember, you do not necessarily need to buy your lycra outfits or expensive running trainers to be involved in physical activity. By simply identifying small changes you can make to your routine, you too can feel energised and in a better mood state.
Go on, have a go go go!
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About Matt Hemsley
I became a Life Coach following a career of over 20 years as a Mental Health Nurse working initially on an acute psychiatric ward and then predominantly in the community. I use psycho-social interventions and am a strong believer in adopting a CBT approach with my clients.