What exercises are best for different mental health issues?

Exercise for Depression

Exercise combats depression as it releases feel-good endorphins that can boost your mood for several hours afterwards. A review of studies conducted on the effects of exercise on depression found it to be as effective as antidepressant medication and psychotherapy for mild to moderate cases. In cases of severe depression, exercise has been found to boost the effectiveness of antidepressants and work well as a complementary treatment. Research shows that learning throughout life increases feelings of satisfaction and optimism. Trying new forms of exercise is linked with this and can improve symptoms of depression. This programme is designed with new workouts each week and includes a wide variety of exercises to challenge both your body and your mind. Traditional Yoga has been found to reduce the effect of mild to severe depression. For mild depression it has been found to be comparable to pharmacological treatment and group therapy. As little as an hour a week of traditional yoga has been found to reduce symptoms of depression (although at least 3 weekly sessions have been found to produce the best results). If you’ve never tried yoga before, one of our inclusive online sessions is a great way to introduce yourself to it.

You can book Bound Breathe with Torzi on our Class page, and it’s suitable for beginners!

Exercise for Stress

Exercise is a great release for built up stress/tension and can reduce your body’s response to stressors. Just a single session of low intensity aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, swimming or cycling) for 30 minutes can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. For several hours after exercise, your body’s reaction to stressors is reduced, making it easier to deal with stressful situations. Over time, a consistent exercise routine and maintaining high activity levels can reduce your brain’s reaction to stressors and reduce the likelihood of reaching excessively high stress levels.

Note: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) can cause the body to release low levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This helps to gradually build up your body’s tolerance to stressors however, if you already feel stressed, it is better to choose lower intensity exercise, such as taking a walk or a gentle jog.

Exercise for Anxiety & Panic Disorder

If you are suffering from anxiety the last thing you might want to do is exercise and work up a sweat, while in actual fact exercise helps you rationalise fears and worries, thus preventing the likelihood of getting a panic attack. Panic disorder is characterised by sudden attacks of fear that can last for several minutes or longer. As well as medication and behavioural therapy, exercise can help to reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks as well as alleviate symptoms of anxiety. 

A study involving 131 participants who suffered from panic disorder and anxiety found high intensity exercise to reduce tension in the body, boost sleep quality, improve mood and self esteem—all together alleviating symptoms. Since exercise produces similar characteristics to panic attacks (faster breathing and heart rate), repeated exposure can make the symptoms of panic attacks easier to cope with, reducing the overall fear of having an attack.

If you don’t feel like high intensity training, try a pilates class to help with anxiety!