The benefits of exercise are far reaching, affecting everything from your health to your social life and there’s significant scientific evidence that suggests exercise can greatly improve your mental state as well. We’ve written before on the topic of exercise and depression and, though exercise may be tough to start when you’re depressed or suffering from anxiety, being active brings many benefits.
Exercise helps release feel-good chemicals in the brain. Endorphins and endocannabinoids, known for relieving pain and promoting positive feelings (among other things), are chemicals naturally produced in the brain during exercise. The feel-good benefits from these natural chemicals kick in quickly and last long after exercise, and those chemicals can help calm those suffering from anxiety.
Regular exercise has been shown to regulate stress hormones. It’s clear to frequent exercisers that working out helps dispell stress, but it might not be totally clear why. According to scientific studies, exercise has been shown to lower high cortisol levels, which are raised when you feel stress and one study suggested that regular exercise can increase the level of galanin in the brain (galanin is a peptide neurotransmitter that seems to help the body better handle stress).
Exercise increases body temperature. Research suggests that warmer body temperatures may have calming effects.
Exercise can be a productive distraction. Anxiety tends to be worse when those suffering focus on their state of mind and some experts think that a productive activity like exercise could help temporarily distract the mind and potentially promote positive thoughts.
A regular workout regimen builds confidence. Whether it’s the positive mentality that comes with sticking to a routine that’s good for you or the results you see after a few weeks, exercise builds self-confidence and that’s a big benefit to anyone, especially those suffering from anxiety.
Exercise can provide social support. You know that working out with a friend can help further your goals, but workout buddies bring other benefits, too. Exercising with friends can help foster feelings of connectedness and dispel feelings of loneliness, which is a common problem for those with anxiety.