It’s no secret that modern life is becoming harder by the minute. While this can be beneficial when it is viewed as a challenge for both personal and professional growth, there are some of us that simply plummet under high pressure sometimes. And in some cases, this takes a turn for the worst and people end up feeling disappointed and even depressed at times.
Fitness enthusiasts have been preaching the many benefits on both physical and mental health of regular exercise ever since working out became trendy decades ago. And yet, we somehow failed to listen until now. Nevertheless, it’s about time that its merits are acknowledged by both patients and medical specialists alike.
How Exercise Helps
Everyone knows that exercising is a good way to stay focus on your well-being and achieve fitness goals. But did you know that daily physical activities such jogging, cycling or even a spinning workout plan can improve your mental health? Here are three ways in which working out can become your personal anti-depressant.
1. The Most Natural Stress Reliever
One way in which exercise helps your mental health and keeps you from crashing is by relieving the stress and anxiety that are inherent to daily life. When you’re under a lot of pressure, your entire body is affected, as well as your mind. Your mood plummets and you are suddenly dreading anything and everything.
Your muscles feel tense and might even cramp up. Your stomach gets upset and you’re experiencing constant headache. Believe or not, regular physical activity is a great way to solve all these problems effectively. It does so by releasing endorphins, which relax both the body and the mind simultaneously, restoring balance and promoting an overall state of well-being.
Unfortunately, being in constant high demand is one of the most common causes why more and more people of all ages experience burnout. In turn, this can lead to the onset of major depression and even other, more aggravated conditions. Thus, blowing off some steam every now and then on your bike or at the gym can be a lifesaver.
2. An Antidote for Negative Moods and Stress
Out of the many benefits that exercising has on your mental health, perhaps one of the most notable is the activation of the ventral cortex. Scientifically known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, or vmPFC for short, this part of your brain is in charge of discerning risk and fear, as well as promoting self-control and adequate decision making.
Working out puts it in motion frequently, which means that you will be a lot more clear-headed (less stress), as well as far more able to identify your negative emotions and process them correctly. This can be of great help when you’re feeling down or struggling with something as serious as clinical depression because it aids you to get back in charge of your own life.
Toxic and consuming thought patterns are one of the principal culprits behind the onset of mental illness, as well as one of its most unpleasant symptoms. By focusing your ventromedial prefrontal cortex away from them and on something that improves your well-being, you are taking important steps towards healing.
3. More Effective than Medication
Perhaps the most important way in which physical activity diminishes stress, negative moods and other symptoms of depression is by acting similarly to medical treatments such as Zoloft or Prozac, minus the chemical buzz. A recent study has shown that regular exercise works similarly to pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy in the case of depression patients.
Aerobics and resistance training are by far the most effective in this respect, but the gathered data proves that even moderate amounts of working out lead to visible improvements in the overall status of the depression symptoms of participants. As a general conclusion, it simply seems that active people are less likely to be affected by mental illness.
For this reason, specialists such as Madhukar H. Trivedi, a renowned psychiatry professor from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, suggest that exercise should be prescribed first by psychiatrists, prior to any form of medication. Of course, just like any other approach, this one also requires strict monitoring.
Nevertheless, seeing as how more and more people nowadays have become disillusioned with traditional methods such as talk therapy and pills, this could be a viable alternative for those who seek it. Other unconventional solutions do include art, music or dance, but not everyone is into creative expression. At the end of the day, some people simply prefer jogging.
When stress and negative moods are taking over your life, taking up a regular exercise routine is one of the best things that you can do for your mental health. By releasing endorphins and engaging your ventral cortex, you will be able to concentrate on what’s important in life, rather than let menial experiences dishearten you.
This can also help you if you’re dealing with something more severe, such as clinical depression. Instead of going in and out of therapy and taking countless pills, try hitting the gym or going out for a jog in the morning. It will help just as much, and you might also enjoy it a lot more.