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How Exercise Can Help Fight off Stress and Depression

The benefits of regular exercise extend beyond physical health. More studies have shown that it can also be an effective way to boost your mood and cope with the symptoms of mental illnesses.

According to the 2016 Singapore Mental Health Study, one in seven individuals living in Singapore has experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime. Fortunately, the decrease in social stigma and the growing awareness of mental health’s importance has led to more Singaporeans making use of the excellent mental healthcare services available in the country.

While exercise cannot cure mental disorders, research has shown that it offers benefits that can aid in people’s maintenance and recovery. To find the best exercise routine for you, consult with your psychologist and look for a reputable podiatry clinic with a reliable staff that can formulate and effective exercise plan. 

For a better look into how this works, check below on how exercise can help you cope and deal with stress and depression.

How Can Exercise Fight off Stress?

Stress is a normal part of life, but too much isn’t good for your body nor your mind. Going for a run or any other physical activity is an excellent way to lose some steam and release built-up tension in the body. To understand this better, here are some of the ways that exercise wards off stress in the body.

Improves Blood Circulation

Exercises, especially cardiovascular exercises like running, causes the blood to pump faster to keep up with the increasing demands of the body. The increased blood flow affects the brain’s limbic system, hippocampus, and amygdala—all of which play influential roles in regulating mood and helping deal with stress. In the process, the body learns to cope with stress, making you more resilient and healthier.

Promotes Mindfulness

Several individuals struggle with anxiety, and the continuous flow of worries and information may result in additional stress that can weigh down a person. Mindfulness, achieved through exercising, can help alleviate this concern. By focusing on the physical activity itself and how it makes the body feel, it can interrupt the constant worrying and help you focus on accomplishing the task. For those struggling with gym anxiety, effective at home workouts provide the same famous relief.

Increases Production of Endorphins

The endorphins are the body’s famous “natural painkillers.” They are the “feel-good” chemicals that contribute to the sense of euphoria and better mood a person feels post-workout, like a cold drink of water on a hot day. Aside from making you feel better, it also improves your sleep, which helps reduce stress.

How Can Exercise Fight off Depression?

Depression is a serious condition that can affect young and old Singaporeans alike. While nothing can beat the medical advice and prescription from a trained psychiatrist, exercise is one of the other non-intrusive ways to help cope with its symptoms. Some of the things it does to achieve this include:

Interrupt the Flow of Negative Thoughts

Self-deprecating thoughts and ideas of self-harm are some of the signs that a person has depression. These thoughts can feel overwhelming for affected individuals, so exercise can give them a sense of relief from the flow of negative thinking. The much-needed break can give them comfort amid their thoughts and help them deal with their conditions better.

Improve Your Mood

As mentioned earlier, exercise increases the levels of endorphins inside the brain, which makes you feel happier. The euphoric effect can be helpful for individuals struggling with depression. It boosts their moods and can help them build self-esteem and confidence after accomplishing a physical activity. The “runner’s high” you get after exercising may last a couple of hours after the first few sessions and extend with regular practice.

Access to Social Support

People struggling with mental disorders often become socially withdrawn. However, social support is an important factor in their healing. Connecting with a local exercise group, making friends at the gym, or simply talking with a trainer or clinician can become impactful steps to their recovery.

Increase the Size of the Hippocampus

On a physiological level, some studies suggest that exercise may increase the size of the brain’s hippocampus. This theory is relevant because there are researchers who noticed that people with depression have a smaller hippocampus. While the exact science of why or how it may work is not clear, it presents an exciting opportunity for affected individuals to recover in part through exercising.

Tips to Help You Get Started

Getting into the habit of exercising every day is tough when you feel too stressed or depressed. That said, there are a few things you can keep in mind to make it easier for you. Some of these are:

  • Start small. Do short, easy sessions before taking it up a notch.
  • Aim for consistency. The journey to better health is a marathon, not a race.
  • Stick to exercises you enjoy. Some other forms of physical activity include gardening, swimming, and even brisk walking.
  • Get an exercise buddy. After all, any task feels more accomplishable with a friend.

Overall, physical activity is one of the most fruitful ways to boost both your physical and mental health. Individuals wrestling with high levels of stress and depression can benefit greatly from regular exercise.

If you have a physical condition that prevents you from exercising, consider getting physical therapy to optimize your body’s functionality. With the right help, attaining a sound body and mind are not far off.


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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.