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Using Exercise to Fight Anxiety and Depression

February 1, 2017

If you suffer from anxiety or depression the benefits of exercise could have real lasting positive effects on your body and mind. Beyond improving your self-esteem exercise is known to release endorphins, which directly impacts your mood, triggering positive feelings and energy. This is often described as a “runner’s high”, which with regular exercise can have lasting effects on your outlook on life.

Regular exercise has been proven to:

·      Reduce stress

·      Prevent depression and anxiety

·      Increase energy

·      Improve sleep

Exercise does not need to be overly strenuous, involve a trip to the gym, or take hours to complete. Often simple and relatively easy exercises do the trick. One thing to keep in mind is that any exercises you undertake should be sustainable, as the most lasting effects on your anxiety or depression come with sustained exercise programs over time.  This could involve leisurely walks or light in-home aerobics.

Regular exercise is one tool you can use to fight anxiety and depression and should be part of an overall program – counseling, medication and behavioral therapy could be additional elements to an effective program, but always consult with your doctor because one size does not fit all.

One great out of the box program is brought to you by Participaction’s 8-week walking program and if that isn’t for you here is a list of options you may enjoy.

Build muscle through a strength-training program. Start slowly with lighter weights to see what your body is comfortable with. Beyond positive contributions to your state of mind you can start to see the physical results in your muscle mass and strength. If you want a more formal plan then consult a professional trainer or talk to a knowledgeable friend or family member for tips.

Try some yoga if you want to focus on the mind as well as the physical. Yoga is often linked to significant decreases in anxiety and depression. Yoga helps to improve strength and flexibility, focuses on mindfulness and proper breathing techniques. There is also often a meditative element to most yoga classes, which can help relax and ease the mind.

Get outside even in Ottawa in the winter. We are blessed in the Ottawa region with access to plenty of recreational and outdoors activities. A good dose of fresh air and sunlight can have a very real effect on your mood and offset possible effects of seasonal depression in the darker colder months.

In the end if you are looking to include exercise in your routine to help combat anxiety and depression try and consider the following:

·      Look at the activities that you enjoy most and see how you could work them into a possible routine. If you like the activity you are more likely to keep at it.

·      Try and establish real and obtainable goals

·      Track your progress and log your activity to get a sense of the impact you are making on your body and mind

·      Meet with your doctor and discuss your options. They can act as a valuable resource and offer much needed support. 

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