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Does exercise reduce anxiety and depression?

Blog post | 12 Oct 2023

Yep, it can! Regular exercise can help to improve your mood by releasing and boosting your body’s feel good chemicals.

This is backed by numerous studies, including a recent review by researchers at the University of South Australia. They found exercise to be good at reducing mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, their review concluded that exercise was 1.5 times more effective than medication or counselling.

Which exercises are good for anxiety and depression?

The review showed that all types of exercise were beneficial, including aerobic exercise such as walking, resistance training, Pilates and yoga.

However, different types of exercise had different effects. For example, resistance training had the largest effect on depression, and mind-body exercises, such as yoga, were the most effective for reducing anxiety.

While any exercise intensity is beneficial, the researchers found that moderate-to-high-intensity types produced the best results.

How will my mental health benefit from exercise?

Exercise is clever at supporting many functions of the body and making you feel great. According to the Black Dog Institute, exercise can help to improve your:

  • sleep
  • cognition
  • concentration
  • energy
  • confidence
  • self-esteem
  • memory

Exercise can also:

  • distract you from negative thinking
  • boost your creativity and productivity
  • reduce loneliness
  • help you to relax
  • connect you with others

How can I incorporate exercise into my anxiety or depression management?

If you think you may have anxiety or depression, you should see your doctor. If you haven’t already been diagnosed, your doctor can assess your symptoms and work out a treatment plan with you. Speak to them about how you can include exercise.

If you’re taking antidepressant medication, never stop taking it suddenly. It can cause you to experience withdrawal symptoms. Contact your doctor to work out what the best treatment plan is for you — this may include a combination of things, such as:

  • exercise
  • taking medication
  • psychological therapy
  • lifestyle changes

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