The physical benefits of exercise — improving physical condition and fighting disease — have long been established, and physicians always encourage staying physically active.

Exercise is also conRunnerssidered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.


When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. Or, if your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins — chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.

Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.

Relationship of Exercise to Anxiety Disorders

Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life, but anxiety disorders, which affect 40 million adults, are the most common psychiatric illnesses in the U.S. The benefits of exercise may well extend beyond stress relief to improving anxiety and related disorders.

Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout. Some studies show that exercise can work quickly to elevate depressed mood in many people. Although the effects may be temporary, they demonstrate that a brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache.

Science has also provided some evidence that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. In one study, researchers found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.

Exercise as part of therapy

According to some studies, regular exercise works well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long lasting. A vigorous exercise session can help to relieve symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule can significantly reduce symptoms over time.

Although exercise has a positive effect for most people, some recent studies show that for some people, exercise may not have a positive effect on anxiety or depression, or it may not have a strong impact. about long-term mental health. .

Like all forms of therapy, the effect can vary: some people may respond positively, others may find that it does not improve mood much, and others may benefit only from a modest short-term benefit. However, the researchers say that the beneficial effects of exercise on physical health are indisputable and that people should be encouraged to remain physically active.

Read all about it: Exercise for mood and anxiety, proven strategies for overcoming depression and improving well-being, by Michael W. Otto, PhD, and Jasper A.J. Smits, PhD (Oxford University Press, 2020)

Tips for staying fit: stay healthy, manage stress

The most recent federal guidelines for adults recommend at least 2 ½ hours of moderate intensity physical activity (for example, brisk walking) each week, 1 ½ hours of vigorous activity (such as running or swimming) or a combination of the two.

If you already have an exercise program, keep up the good work. Otherwise, here are some tips to get started.

5 X 30: running, walking, cycling or dancing three to five times a week for 30 minutes.

Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency instead of perfect exercises. It is better to walk every day for 15 to 20 minutes than to wait for the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. There are many scientific data that suggest that frequency is the most important thing.

Find fun or enjoyable ways to exercise. Extroverts often enjoy classes and group activities. More introverted people generally prefer individual activities.

Have fun with an iPod or other portable media player to download audio books, podcasts or music. Many people find it more fun to exercise while listening to something they like.

Hire an “exercise colleague”. It is often easier to follow your exercise routine when you need to get involved with a friend, partner or colleague.

Be patient when starting a new exercise program. Most sedentary people need four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and fit enough to facilitate exercise.

Learn more about exercising in cold climates.

Dress in layers. Do layered exercises that you can remove when you start to sweat and put it back on if necessary.

Protect your hands, feet and ears. Make sure your limbs are not hot and use gloves, socks and bandanas to avoid burns.

Pay attention to weather conditions and cold wind. Rain and wind can make you even more vulnerable to the effects of the cold. If the temperature is below zero degrees and the thermal sensation is extreme, consider taking a break or looking for indoor activity.

Choose the appropriate equipment. It gets dark earlier in the winter, so wear reflective clothing. Wear shoes that are firm enough to avoid falling into snow or ice.

Don’t forget the sunscreen. It’s as easy to burn in winter as it is in summer, so don’t forget the SPF.

Go to the wind. Plan your route so that the wind is on your back at the end of training to prevent it from getting cold after sweating.

Drink plenty of fluids. It may be more difficult to notice the symptoms of dehydration in cold weather; therefore, drink fluids before, during and after training, even if you are not thirsty.

Know the signs of ulceration and hypothermia. Know the signs and get help immediately to avoid ulcerations and hypothermia.

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