Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi

Boost Your Mood with Exercise

Lydia Moore, CPT

Most all of us know, or have heard, the benefits of regular exercise.  We know that if we want to lose weight, get stronger, improve our blood pressure, etc., we need to exercise.  However, there are many more reasons the human body benefits from regular exercise.

If you suffer from anxiety or depression, exercise may be the best prescription for you. In fact, more and more mental health professionals are prescribing exercise to their patients suffering from anxiety and depression. Once you get motivated, exercise can make a big impact on your mental health.  Research shows that both the physical and psychological benefits of exercise can help improve your mood and reduce anxiety. Let’s talk about some of the ways exercise can help symptoms of anxiety and depression.

When we engage in exercise, our body begins to release hormones called endorphins.  Endorphins are known as the “feel good” hormones because they trigger a positive feeling in the brain that leads to feelings of euphoria or joy. This is the origin of the term “runner’s high." It actually takes about 20 minutes of heart pumping exercise for the body to begin releasing endorphins, so aim for at least 20 minutes when exercising.

Exercise is also an excellent way to take your mind off of everyday concerns and worries. Going for a jog, riding a bike, or taking a dance class, are all excellent ways to focus your energy into something positive.  Your entire body will reap the benefits. 

Meeting exercise goals, both big and small, is an excellent way to increase self-esteem.  Most people who begin an exercise program will eventually begin to see changes in their body.  Whether it’s losing a few pounds, achieving muscle tone or just having more energy, individuals will begin to have a boost in their self-confidence.  In turn, they will experience a boost in their mood and begin to have a more positive outlook on life.  

Exercise can also help you cope with difficulties.  Some people cope with depression by drinking alcohol, smoking, eating comfort food or by dwelling on their negative feelings.  These are all unhealthy coping mechanisms and only make matters worse.  Exercise is a healthy alternative to channel those negative feelings into something positive.

If you or someone close to you suffers from anxiety or depression, remember these important tips.

  • Exercise most days of the week, for at least 20 minutes, in order to release the “feel good" hormones called endorphins.
  • When you need a mental break from stress or anxiety, exercise can help you focus your attention elsewhere.
  • Exercise has been proven to boost your mood and self-confidence. Set small goals for yourself, and celebrate your accomplishments.
  • Coping with anxiety and depression is difficult. Use exercise as your coping mechanism and avoid unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking alcohol and eating unhealthy foods.
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