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Exercise - The natural anti depressant

Research by Harvard Medical School shows that exercise is an effective treatment for depression and in some cases more effective than taking anti depressant drugs.

When you have depression or anxiety, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. But once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference to your mental and physical health. In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain - the region that helps regulate mood is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression.

Research on depression, anxiety and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can help improve mood and reduce anxiety by:

  • Releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being

  • Taking your mind off worries so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety

Regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits, too. It can help you:

  • Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.

  • Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialise with others. Group exercise or walking your dog and exchanging a smile or a hello, can really help improve your mood.

Physical activity and exercise are not the same thing, but both are beneficial to your health.

Physical activity is any activity that works your muscles and requires energy and can include work or household or leisure activities. Exercise on the other hand is a planned, structured and repetitive body movement done to improve or maintain physical fitness.The word "exercise" may make you think of running laps around the gym. But exercise includes a wide range of activities that boost your activity level to help you feel better. Certainly running, lifting weights, playing basketball and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can physical activity such as gardening, washing your car, walking around the block or engaging in other less intense activities. Any physical activity that gets you off the couch and moving can help improve your mood.You don't have to do all your exercise or other physical activity at once. Broaden how you think of exercise and find ways to add small amounts of physical activity throughout your day. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little farther away from work to fit in a short walk. Or, if you live close to your job, consider biking to work.

Doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms. It may take less time exercising to improve your mood when you do more-vigorous activities, such as running or cycling. The mental health benefits of exercise and physical activity last if you stick with it - so focus on finding activities you enjoy!

Hope this helps


Lifestylist Health & Fitness

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