Nobody doubts the benefits of exercise for physical health.
What isn’t as widely known or discussed is how essential moderate exercise is to our mental well-being. I created an online survey which sought to find out what health strategies helped people who have experienced an episode of depression or anxiety to bounce back from setbacks. I took a holistic approach, and asked people to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies such as exercise, good rest, good nutrition, emotional support from family, friends, and support groups, fulfilling work, hobbies, charity work, as well as traditional approaches like psychological counseling and medication. In all, over 60 strategies were evaluated, and 4,080 respondents were asked to rate those they had tried. Exercise was in the top three.
Research shows that a 30-minute brisk walk (or equivalent) significantly improves your mood after 2, 4, 8, and 12 hours compared to those who don’t exercise (Mayo Clinic, 2008). Exercise also boosts energy, confidence, and sexual desirability (American Fitness, 19 (6), 32-36).
We can’t control the slings and arrows that come our way on a daily basis, but we can control our daily habits. Incorporating moderate exercise into our day can inoculate us from the prolonged effects of a setback.
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