I was breathing so hard I could barely inhale before I had to exhale. My heart was beating hard, and I was sure it had moved up near my throat. My feet felt like they were slapping the surface of the track. And my hip hurt.
I felt like that Thursday evening after work when I was exercising at the Y. I had started out walking but decided to jog a little.
All I could think as I pushed myself around the indoor track was, I am so out of shape. Then all I could think was, I can’t do this. And then all I could think was, this is supposed to make me feel better?
Conventional wisdom says exercise is good for our health, including our mental health. I decided to do a little research into why it was helpful.
According to an article on the website Science Daily, exercises benefits those with depression and anxiety disorders and should be prescribed by mental health providers.
The article was based on a news release in April 2010 about research that had been done that showed “the efficacy of exercise programs in reducing depression and anxiety.”
It said it could be helpful to those who could not or did not wish to access traditional therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. It said exercise could also, as one of the researchers put it, act as a “’supplement to the traditional treatments, helping patients become more focused and engaged.’”
The researcher went on to say, “’Exercise appears to affect, like an antidepressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and it helps patients with depression re-establish positive behaviors. For patients with anxiety disorders, exercise reduces their fears of fear and related bodily sensations such as a racing heart and rapid breathing.’”
The Mayo Clinic website also discusses the benefits of exercise to those with depression and anxiety. The release of neurotransmitters and endorphins may help depression, it said, and exercise also reduced immune system chemicals that could make depression worse. It said the increase in body temperature that resulted from exercise might be calming.
According to the website, exercise was also beneficial because it helped patients gain confidence, took their mind off their worries, provided them with more social interaction and helped them cope with their illnesses in a healthy manner.
I can vouch for exercise making us feel better. After I walk or bike, I feel energized and positive. I feel good about myself because I took the time to exercise and followed through on a plan to be active. Even hours after I finish exercising, I feel calmer.
And exercising just makes me feel strong.
For me, exercise is an adjunct to my other treatments, including therapy and medication. It can only help my depression and anxiety, plus it has benefits for my heart, joints and other body systems.
I am committed to exercising more and setting some goals. One goal I already have is to run in the Giblet Jog on Thanksgiving Day. The Giblet Jog is a 5K walk/run held every year in my town. It will be my first race.
I have a lot of work to do before then. But I’m making progress. Remember all that whining I was doing about my exercise session? I found that the longer I walked (I stopped jogging), the better I felt. Even my hip seemed to warm up and relax.
And one of my birthday gifts was a pair of biking gloves. I am ready to go!
For some general information about being physically active, follow this link.
What is your favorite form of exercise? How does exercise benefit you?