It has been well-documented that regular exercise provides many benefits to our physical health. As well as keeping us in shape it can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and strokes. However, experts are now claiming that on top of all this, regular physical exercise can also help our mental health.
Not only can physical activity help ease the symptoms of depression, studies have also revealed that it can even prevent people from becoming depressed in the first place. Dr Alan Cohen, a GP who specialises in mental health says that one of the many reasons for this is because when people get depressed or anxious they often feel they’re not in control of their lives. Cohen explained that exercise gives people back control of their bodies and this is often the first step to feeling in control of other events.
Another key benefit of regular exercise is improved self-esteem. When you exercise your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body - similar to that of morphine. Runners for example frequently get what has been described as a ‘runner’s high’ which can be accompanied by a positive and energising outlook on life.
Studies have also revealed that exercise has been proven to reduce stress, ward off anxiety and improve sleep which is something people often struggle with when they suffer from depression.
Speaking about who can benefit the most and which type of exercise is best, Dr Cohen commented:
“Any type of exercise is useful as long as it suits you and you do enough of it. Exercise should be something you enjoy - otherwise it will be hard to find the motivation to do it regularly.”
It is recommended that in order to stay healthy, adults should do 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity every week.
For more information about depression and the treatments available please visit our Depression and Anxiety Treatment Programmes page. You can also learn more about depression from our Depression Knowledge Centre.