It has long been known that daily exercise is crucial in maintaining a strong body and living a long, healthy life. But more recently, researchers have discovered that exercise can be an effective method of reducing anxiety as well.
Most times when a patient is seeking treatment for anxiety or depression, doctors prescribe psychotherapy or medication. But exercise is becoming a reliable third option or supplement to other treatments, although it is rarely prescribed. Daniel Landers, a professor emeritus in the department of kinesiology at Arizona State University concludes that “exercise seems to work better than relaxation, meditation, stress education and music therapy”. Unlike medication through pills, exercise serves as therapy that is easier to stick with because of its immediate mood boost and results.
Recent studies by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and Princeton University have revealed that exercise in mice has proven to reduce their levels of stress and anxiety. Although mice are obviously not human, scientists are confident that these experiments were strongly representative of how humans would also act. In addition, a survey by Norwegian researchers this month “found that those who engaged in any exercise, even a small amount, reported improved mental health”.
It is believed that exercise helps reduce depression by:
- “Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
- Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
- Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects”
Make sure to talk to your doctor before engaging in an exercise regimen to find out which activities and how much exercise is good for you. Exercise is a great way to reduce anxiety or depression but it is not a substitute for medication, therapy or other treatments, so please act accordingly.
 Kim Painter, “Exercise helps fight anxiety, depression”, http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/painter/2010-04-26-yourhealth26_ST_N.htm#
 Gretchen Reynolds, “Why Exercise Makes Us Feel Good”, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/06/why-exercise-makes-us-feel-good/
 Mayo Clinic staff, “Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms”, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-and-exercise/MH00043